Chapters_20One-Two

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        In the final analysis, I killed my father. A single golden arrow on the dark-blue
dial on the Moscow University tower on the Lenin Hills showed minus forty degrees
Celsius. Cars didn’t run. Birds were scared to fly. The city froze like aspic with human
stuffing. In the morning, having looked at myself in the oval mirror in the bathroom, I
revealed that the hair on my temples turned gray overnight. I turned thirty-two. This was
the coldest January of my life.
        It’s true; my father is still living and even on his days off, until recently, played
tennis. Now, although having grown much older, regardless, still mows the lawn with the
electric lawnmower around the summer-house between the hydrangeas and rose bushes,
among the thicket of gooseberries, his favorite since childhood. He, as before drives our
car, stubbornly not wearing his glasses, which drives my mother crazy and pedestrians –
to horror. Having retired to the second floor of his dacha study, at the window on which
the branches of the tall oak scrape, he for a long time, sluggishly, rubbing his strong-
willed chin, types something on the typewriter (maybe he’s writing a book of
reminiscences?), but all this is already details. I committed, if not a physical, then a
political murder – this was real death according to the laws of my country.

                                             
         Is it possible to consider parents as people? I always doubted this. Parents - are
undeveloped negatives. Of everyone who we meet in life, the worst of all we know are
our parents, namely because we don’t meet them, the initiative is originally seized by the
“ancestors”: that is to say, they meet us. The umbilical cord is not severed - we are
created from them exactly as much as they are impossible to understand. The collapse of
knowledge is ensured. The rest – is conjecture. We’re afraid to see their bodies and
glance into their souls. So, for us they don’t turn into people, forever remaining a
sequence of impressions, not knowing their beginning, by their unstable scarecrow-
mirages.
         These - are untouchable essences. Our opinions of them are helpless, sucked out
of one’s fingers, built on prejudices, persistent children's fears, the struggle of perfection
against reality, proof of the improvable. But parents are also helpless in front of our
evaluation. Our mutual love with them doesn’t belong either to us or to them, but to
instinct, like being lost in a mother’s womb, just like in the womb of civilization. We
energetically search for the bright human beginning in this instinct, and we cannot avenge
the instinct for its blindness of our profound speculations. Love under the name of
“fathers and sons” doesn’t have the common denominator of appreciation, full of endless
offenses and misunderstandings, from which sadness is born, of late regret.
         Parents – are the buffer between us and death. Like great artists, they don’t have
the right to age; our inevitable revolt against them is as much biological as morally
disgusting. Parents – are the most intimate things we have. But when family intimacy
grows to the scale of international scandal, which puts the family on the threshold of
survival, as it happened in my house, you involuntarily begin to think, reminisce and
analyze. I only now finally decided to write a book about this.
                                ANONYMOUS LETTER

        To the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the USSR, Comrade A.A. Gromyko.
        CC: Austria. Vienna. Representative of the Soviet Union at the United Nations.
Ambassador V.I. Yerofeyev.
        Airmail, on the envelope - three pilots: Heroes of the Soviet Union: P. Osipenko,
V. Grizodubov, and M. Raskov. The 40 th anniversary of the non-stop flight from Moscow
to the Far East. Stamp # 31-1791840 (sent on January 31, 1979 at 6:40pm) Moscow, Post
Office #9.
        The second copy (to me) MOSCOW. 27-29 Gorky Street, # 30. To: V. Erofeyev.
        Airmail, on the envelope - the Baikal Tunnel. From the series: contemporary
animal fauna of the USSR. Stamp # 31-1791840. Moscow, Post Office #9.
        The return address and name shown on the envelope were false. The writing and
punctuation of the anonymous author remains without changes.

                             RESPECTED COMRADE MINISTER!

        It seems that from the local scandal which is going on now in literary spheres,
they are obligated to draw conclusions and some other institutes, having relations with
the struggle of two social systems. In particular, the Ministry Of Foreign Affairs.
        To think only: in the family of “our” profound diplomat, having an
irreproachable, ideological reputation, a good-for-nothing grew up, who writes obscene
sexual-pathological short stories, and now released them, being the editor and one of the
authors of the underground almanac, having a clear anti-Soviet track. And Victor
Erofeyev’s story, the plot of which unfolds in a public bathroom, by which it follows to
understand Russian society, in general, a precedent that never-before existed!
        <…> And while there is a trial in literary circles, how a young man, not having
one book of his own, got to be a member of the Union of Soviet Writers, shouldn’t one
think about what strange ideas he picked up abroad, where were, and now often appear
owing to the official position of his parents? We don’t think that he’d be directly
recruited, but one thing is almost undoubted: enemy ideology went straight to his head!
        <…> There are a lot of conversations now that his parent’s connections will help
this class dropout free himself from history, in which he, for now, behaves extremely
impudently, without a hint of any kind of repentance. It would be very regrettable, if the
high parental authority put down this political matter, close to this rehearsed diversion, as
they say “put on the brakes”. Just the opposite, it is extremely important based on the
example of this regrettable matter to bring an educational action and within the confines
of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs itself, in order that others would think what
consequences parental liberal views and the absence of comprehensive vigilance to
questions can lead... (The second page of letter in both copies is missing).
                                            
        Perhaps, I am the freest man in Russia. In reality, this is an insignificant
achievement; a special competition in this sphere isn’t seen. Everyone competes in
different ways. I don’t know what to do with my freedom, but it was given to me like
clairvoyance. Somehow it happened that I was left out of various ranks, regalia,
confessions and premiums. I think that I got lucky. I have no bosses or underlings. I’m
not dependent on cunts or the Red Army. I don’t give a shit about critics, fashion or fans.
To be the freest man in the most ridiculous country - is hysterically funny. Serious people
live in other countries, carrying the weight of responsibility, like full barrels of water, but
we have peasants, women, militia, intelligentsia, farmers, political prisoners, retards,
managers and other left-overs - funny, untranslatable into foreign languages. Funny
people don’t need freedom.
        What kind of genial ideas don’t come into Russian’s heads - each one is genially
funny. The Third Rome was created, the fathers were revived, they built Communism.
There’s nothing they wouldn’t believe! In the tsar, white angels, Europe, America,
Orthodoxy, the Secret Police, unification, commune, revolution, 10-ruble bank notes,
national exclusivity - they believed in everything and everyone, except in themselves.
But the funniest thing - call the Russian people toward self-knowledge, bang the gong,
ring the Buddhist bell:
        “Get up, Brothers! Embrace! Let’s Drink!
        The brothers will absolutely drink. Sit with the intelligentsia all night long, talking
about God, death, women, the author's song, fate - veins widen, conceptions multiply.
Horizons open up on four sides: smoking with Byron, playing pool with Che Guevara.
But in the morning I woke up - there weren’t intelligentsia anymore. Bohemia is going
out of style. Then - in big business, in television, in politics, toward oligarchs - you sit
and get stupid. Or with the youth roll into the disco: you’ll find out about the cosmic wars
of good and evil, the etymology of Japanese curse words, forty- four possibilities not to
like top- models, the mythical abyss of Armageddon in the bathroom: you’ll dance the
ethical dance at the same time.
        Russian writers - are also funny people. Some laugh through their tears, others -
just laugh. They worry about morality in this funny country. But, like the Aztecs, they are
bloodthirsty, have a penchant toward human sacrifice. They cut off the heads of women
and enemies. Novels are filled with themes of funny fathers and funny children. Not only
Turgenev and Dostoyevsky, but also the Silver Age in “Petersburg” of Andrei Bely,
talked about this theme until ritual murder. The revolutionary-son and the reactionary-
father. A book, bomb, terror. If my mother only knew, becoming sick from my childhood
indifference to the printed word, fostering love of literature, that I will reflect on this
theme in life, having spoiled my whole family, she would have probably burned all the
books in our family library.
                                             
       In my mother’s letter to my father, sent from Vienna to Moscow, dated February
17, 1979:
                                           My Dear Vov:
       I’ve lived already for two weeks - tomorrow - without you. And almost the whole
time under the Scottish shower. First cool water, then hot again…
       I already wrote you, that I’m trying to occupy myself all the time, to the max, to
be with people, so as to get away from serious thoughts. And now, it seems, I used up all
the possibilities of any meetings. Yeah, and could there have been that many during our
secluded life?
        Its raining for the third day, either there are thick clouds, not wanting even to go
out for a stroll in the street. <…>
        How many times do I worry about you! What kind of relations do you have
toward literary experimentation? Victor acted like the last idiot, having put himself in
harm’s way in all directions, then, when he didn’t do absolutely anything, as they say, he
didn’t “become anyone”. What is this irresponsibility! He cut logs, ruined a lot in his life
and for a long time.
        And here you are! What do you have to do with it? Perfect service, spoiling your
health and nerves. A colossal responsibility. All your life is given to work. Evening
sleeplessness until midnight, when others (without choosing) drink vodka.
        I have to finish, or I can’t write anymore about it.<…>
        I’ll send you something.
        Socks - for Andryusha, a can of caviar for Olezhka. Wine for the both of you.
        Kisses,
        Galya.

                                            
         Like a wild animal, time considerably changes its place of habitation. In the dusty
suitcases covered in crocodile skin, expensive briefcases with ripped handles, boxes of
the export “Stolichnaya” vodka business cards of the deceased, invitations to par ties for
government officials retired long ago, menus for lunches and dinners with non-existent
people, newspapers with extra news (basically obituaries) were saved. Bureaucratic
existentialism, yearning for immortality, thirst to leave a mark. My father - was a junk
dealer.
         Mama: Why do you need this?
         My father never answers this question. In the main drawer of his desk is an issue
of “Pravda”: unprecedented in the history of journalist’s necrophiliac apotheosis, put
together in black lines of news. The style of the medical conclusion of the leader’s death
of was so excellent, that one involuntarily thinks: all this is - literature.
         Then all life was literature. On March 5, 1953 people were divided between those
who cried and those who were happy. But there was one person who didn’t notice that
Stalin had died. Didn’t notice the mourning music playing on the radio, nor the red flags
with the black ribbons, hung by superintendents on the streets. He lived in Moscow, in
the city center, on 27/29 Gorky Street, near Mayakovsky Square and his neighbors in the
huge Stalinist building with the locks of the façade of stucco molding, soundly
constructed by captured Germans, were the main Stalinist writer Fadeyev and wonderful
artist/social-realist Laktionov, from whom, due to principles, my mother refused to order
her portrait: she loved the impressionists, but Laktionov at that time had a worsening
reputation. So, my mother was left without a portrait, which could have been sold now
for a large sum. Besides the impressionists, mother subsequently loved Okudzhava’s
songs and once Galina Fyodorovna brought him to our house, having smoked one “Yava”
cigarette after another, pulling them from a wrinkled soft-pack, ritually softening them
before smoking, and Okudzhava appeared, thin, young and - arrogant (but, perhaps, from
confusion), drawn to the collection of Georges Brassens’ with whom my father was
personally acquainted, records, and it seemed to me then, as soon as Brassens sang,
Okudzhava forgot about us, but then out of politeness, remembered, conversation around
the table was about Stalin’s death, mother said on that day everyone cried because they
didn’t understand, and Okudzhava said quietly:
         OKUDZHAVA: This was the happiest day in my life.
         And left awfully awkwardly.
         The person who didn’t notice Stalin’s death was five and-a-half years old, but this
fact didn’t forgive him at all. Children lived, walked, sang and knew what happened in
the country. Besides that, this boy’s father worked in the Kremlin as Molotov’s aide and
Stalin’s official French translator. Or I was completely forgetful, but no matter how much
I strain my memory, I don’t remember that mournful day. How is that possible?
         I asked my parents this question for years. In the beginning I explained that my
mother cried on that day along with her friends. They worked together at the Ministry of
Foreign Affairs of the Soviet Union and cried for two reasons. In the first place, they
loved Stalin. Secondly, they were scared that without Stalin the country would collapse.
My mother later admitted this.
         MAMA: I am sorry that I cried, as Stalin was such a monster.
         Concerning the second point, those friends were historically correct. Stalin died -
the Soviet Union began to fall apart the very next day, the neighbo r Fadeyev shot himself
soon after that. And though, as many times as the country was embalmed, it continued to
disintegrate and finally fell into putrid pieces.
         And papa? Did papa cry?
         PAPA: I was too busy that day to cry.
         Really! When papa didn’t want to talk about something, he didn’t answer directly,
yet briefly and clearly. Of course, he had to order the coffin, wreathes, hearse, buy up
bundles of flowers all over the Soviet Union, such that there was nothing to put on the
grave of the composer Prokofiev, who died at the same time as Stalin. Finally he and his
comrades succeeded in getting a plot in the cemetery, and on the following days
organized the funeral throng on Trubnaya, evacuated the dead who hadn’t reached their
requiem service. And only recently did father admit this.
         FATHER: I sighed with relief that day.
         But is there truth or simply time, like a wild animal, having gone to another
feeding ground, in these admissions?
         From Daniel Verne’s article in “Le Monde” of January 25, 1979:
         SOVIET WRITERS, NOT BEING DISSIDENTS, REFUSE THE CENSURE
AND PUBLISH A MANUSCRIPT JOURNAL.
         Moscow. A café at a Moscow intersection. On Tuesday, January 23, a group of
writers rented a hall, so as to present a new publication to a few Soviet friends, writers
and artists. However, the café was closed on the appointed day. The day before, doctors
decided that tomorrow will be “cleaning day” and that the café was desperate need of
disinfection.
         Five writers: Vasily Aksenov, (whose works, such as “Starry Ticket” and “Golden
Piece of Iron” were well-known in France); Andrei Bitov, Victor Erofeyev, (critic and
having the same last name of the author of “Moscow-Roosters”, Fazil Iskander (the writer
from Abkhazia) and Yevgenii Popov (the young Siberian poet) published a journal
without official permission, having refused to undergo any kind of censorship.
         This collection, characterized by the authors themselves, according to the
traditions of the 19th century, like an almanac, is a huge folder in the format of four times
A4. It was more than 120 pages, which corresponded to a book of 700 pages. Twenty-
three Soviet authors contributed to it <…>.
         The almanac was called “Metropolis”, with three meanings of this word:
metropolis, as in the capitol, metropolitan, as in the subway syste m (underground) and as
in the famous hotel “Moscow”, since the authors are “looking for a roof”<...>.

                                            
                                             
        My father was one of the brilliant Soviet diplomats of his time. He distinguished
himself by a quick, operational mind, an unbelievable ability to work, optimism, charm,
real beauty and modesty. He loved to joke. His jokes were like games of the sun in the
green of trees. They stayed in me not as words but mood, in them was a special, warm
microclimate, which also became the microclimate of my childhood. It seems sometimes
to me that my attraction to the south, which, in relation to me, I find this unusual case in
Bunin, my recognition of the non-existence of the Russian North of the pyramid poplars
and white acacias of my trees, my “learning” about Pa risian platons as a matrix of the
home flora bound mainly to my father’s jokes.
        My father was a decent person, able to behave independently, freely with high
administration, even in the Stalinist era, and in general, as opposed to many of his tin
colleagues with the protruding eyes of toadies, lackeys and “felt boots”, he liked to stand
with his legs a bit apart, a little like the Americans, in wide pants that were fashionable
then, squinting a bit, - at least that’s what the daughter of the famous marshal told me in a
conversation. Maya Konyeva knew my father well in the 1950s. By the way, I consider
their color amateur photograph of those years, against the background of an open white
limousine ZIS and Sochi oleander, with tennis rackets in their hot hands to be a model of
the sweet life under Stalin. I often got to hear such praise of my father from such varied
people as the great physicist Pyotr Kapitsa (during lunch at his summer house on
Nikolina Mountain), Rostropovich, Gilels and Yevtushenko.
        I couldn’t not but be proud of my father. He didn’t bring back expensive gifts
from abroad “up”, didn’t try to please the boss’s wives. He didn’t like the standard
“diplomatic” speculation, __________, expensive Western technology (cameras, record
players, Rolexs, players) not having reached the poor Soviet market and it’s resale
through the Moscow commission stores for personal gain. According to his views - a
committed Communist - “the Stalinist falcon” with steel eyes, taking direct participation
in the development of the Soviet conception of the “Cold War”, my father sincerely
believed in the advantages of the Soviet system over capitalism, dreamed of world
revolution.

                                            
       I was born in September 1947. I had a happy Stalinist childhood. A clean,
cloudless paradise. In this sense, I am ready to compete with the suspiciously sporty
Nabokov. I also was a baron’s son, only he - was aristocratic, I was of the nomenclature.
I was born in a shirt. Many years passed before I found out about that. According to
Russian beliefs, happy people are born in shirts. People are lucky. Mama, apparently
thought for a long time that I was born out of dumb luck in a shirt. When she gave birth
to me, she dreamed about Dostoyevsky, a rare visitor in her dreams.
        DOSTOYEVSKY: So, are you happy?
        MAMA: Before this I was only happy like that one time. When the war ended, I
celebrated victory in Tokyo. I worked in the Soviet Embassy in the section of the military
attaché. The staff drank up all the reserves, first of the common and then rare wines.
Before the end, two victorious diplomats fought over a woman.
        DOSTOYEVSKY: That woman was you.
        MAMA: It’s immediately obvious that you are Dostoyevsky.
        Dostoyevsky frowned.
        DOSTOYEVSKY: You are his utopia.
        My mama thought about the offered classic.

                                            
         From my letter to my parents from Moscow to Vienna, mistakenly dated last year
(as it often happens in January): 1/27/78 instead of 1/27/79. The intonation of the letter -
lulling in its contents - “filial” a mixture of half-truths and truths. A cunning enough
letter:

                                  Dear mama and papa,

a possibility arose to write you a letter, to tell you about what’ going on. Olezhka - the
biggest optimist in our family - babbles more and more, amusingly pronounces words,
almost not mixing them up now, makes elementary phrases and besides this, goes to
kindergarten, where, it seems, he likes it and where he brings diverse knowledge,
particularly musical (he walks around singing). Announcing as before, I have enough
work, thin and trans parent. I also have work. One of these projects is worth discussing
in more detail. During the year, a few Moscow writers (Bitov, Aksenov, Iskander and I
among them) prepared a literary almanac, which consisted of experimental prose and
poetry. Recently we took it to the Writer’s Union and offered them to publish it. Our
initiative was accepted - unexpectedly enough for us - with great suspicion, which
quickly grew into a big scandal. We began to be dragged to the Writer’s Union for
working on it; to clean our brains; we became angry, stamped our feet. For the well-
known names (in the almanac were Akhmadulina, Voznesensky, Vyssotsky and others)
the scandal - with the reworking - became all-Moscow encompassing, the Western press
and radio got involved and pandemonium ensued. A widened secretariat of the Union
gathered (nearly 70 members), at which such people as Gribachev, Zhukov and others -
“savages” - threatened us for four hours. I don’t know how events will develop further,
but, in my opinion, “they” simply lost their minds. I was also personally blamed (in the
Union and the Institute). It’s a possibility that our clean literary work wouldn’t grow
(thanks to the idiocy of a few zealous keepers of stagnation) into who knows what. I’m
writing this to you in the hope that you’ll relate to what’s happening with a sense of calm,
understand my good intentions (and not only mine, but those of my friends as well).
Unfortunately, apparently from the progression of the matter, the dark forces are winning,
but if they go to extreme practical conclusions, the scandal from Moscow will become
huge (what’s going on now is reminiscent of how eyewitnesses recall part of 1963). I
don’t stop hoping that the matter will end more-or-less tolerably. In any case, don’t take
any actions without agreement from me. I understand that all this worries you, but don’t
say anything - now it’s simply impossible. I feel alright, but I’ve wasted my nerves
enough already. Andryushka and Veshcha, poor things, are also terribly worried… Thank
you for the s wamp pants … by the way, it’s not time for them now. I send my love, I’ll
tell you about developments as soon as I can.
        Veshcha also sends his love.
        Yours, Victor.

                                           
        In postwar, half- hungry Moscow grandma called mama at work with the
enthusiastic report about my breakfast:
        “Vityusha ate an entire can of black caviar!”
        My mother had an interesting job. She read articles which no one else could read,
so that they could quickly be shot. A modest chosen one, a young Goddess, co-participant
in the secret of world creation in a skyscraper on Smolensky Square, she read American
newspapers and magazines searching for slander of the Soviet Union and summarized it
for the administration of the press department.
        The Americans didn’t handle themselves well, slandered a lot and disparaged the
Russian people with terrible force. The Americans wrote that Russians are Samoyeds,
having driven themselves to Siberian death camps, and that Stalin is the cruelest dictator
in the world, a cannibal who swallowed the Baltics, Poland and some of Eastern Europe.
Kind Uncle Joe, the ally of the military coalition, no longer existed. Others, used to it,
people who from such announcements could have diarrhea or be paralyzed, but from
mama the American slander flew away like peas from the wall. She understood that the
Siberian building of Communism - this isn’t a death camp for you. She really did hate
Americans, with the exception of Theodore Dreiser, whom she translated into Russian in
her free time: she dreamed of being a translator. Mama knew that Amer icans have
crooked, hairy legs, which they shave for effect. Pictures of a strange, foreign life were
before her eyes every day. Winking, a camel offered her to smoke together with all of
America. But more than America, she couldn’t stand my grandmother Anastasia
Nikandrovna.
        If the Americans made plans to land in Red Square, having scared Communists
and white bears, then grandma already landed in Moscow and took over our apartment.
She had her place to live on Mokhov Street, in a two-story house, attached to the Kalinin
mansion museum, directly across from the arched entrance of the shallow Lenin Library
Metro Station, with stove- heat, the unique smell of Russian provincial widowhood, a
water pipe, but without plumbing (a bucket with muddy soapy water stood forever under
the sink in the hall; I pissed in it), however we had a gas stove in our apartment, and
having moved Marusya to the background, grandma became its queen. On it she fried
sausage and boiled laundry in the gurgling zinc tank where it was poss ible, if one wanted,
to boil a large child. She pulled out the dripping laundry with buttons with huge wooden
tongs, like large rags of lobsters, rubbed them on a ribbed washboard, rinsed them,
dripping huge drops of sweat on them, hung them to dry in the kitchen on gray wooden
clothespins with amazingly strong springs. Our kitchen became a tent camp, where it was
possible, to my childhood joy, to get lost looking for one another in vain for days. She
heated heavy, cast- iron irons to a dangerous redness; the bottoms of the irons glowed like
mystical weapons of medieval torture, which, having grabbed them with a rag, she
violently ironed my father’s suits, hissing and letting out hot steam from under the wet
old sheet, with red lines, from being burnt, in its second life, having become an ironing
rag. Sitting behind the “Macintosh”, I understand, how in my head grandma’s bath and
laundry shop was recoded in stylistic work. Grandma threw a tub of energy on me. I - am
her grandson.
        She ran around the kitchen excited, burned, half- naked in her pink bra.
Complaining about her heart, after which she went to wash in an unbearably hot bath,
where the mirror cried from the heat, or in an ambulance to the hospital. Mama
considered her to be а simulator. When scandals flared, grandma slammed the doors hard
- windowpanes flew out. My nanny, Marusya Pushkina, who absolutely left me alone,
had the face of a rural maid outside of Volokolamka, eternally happy from life’s
surprises, fearlessly lied to me: these - are drafts. Mama lived under grandma’s
occupation, locked herself in the bathroom in the case of explanations, swallowed her
tears, hunched over, but she didn’t have the strength to force grandma (papa’s protector)
out of the apartment.
        “Feed the child cream of wheat,” - mama said quietly from the Soviet skyscraper,
flipping through “Life” magazine.

                                            
        Papa shyly brought blue packages with the tastiest foods home from work from
the Kremlin product distributor: crunchy dairy hotdogs, thin “Doctor’s” sausages, boiled
salted pork, salmon, smoked sturgeon, crabs.

                              Its time for everyone to taste
                             How tender and tasty are crabs! -

said one of the rare billboard advertisements of that time by the entrance to the garden
“Aquarium” with two huge lordly vases with marble goats, munching grape leaves (the
Las Vegas flames of a casino shine there now). For dessert papa, for a ridiculous price,
passed out halva, pale-pink fruit fudge, rum zefir in chocolate, “Clumsy Bear” candies,
multi-colored Kievan candied fruits, Turkish delights and gingerbread cookies with
honey and other sweets. Sometimes dark-red spots appeared on the packaging: this was a
fresh cut of meat soaked in blood. The sharp smell of small dimpled cucumbers with the
yellow center of a flower in full-blown winter with drawn window from frost ferns
permeated the kitchen. The cookbook of Stalin’s era “About Tasty and Healthy Food”,
with the elegant sepia photographs of plenty of food, sturgeon, dairy pigs, high-quality
Georgian wines didn’t seem insulting in our home.
        I was skinny and didn’t like to eat. In the struggle for my appetite, grandma ran to
torture me with fish fat. Her dream to turn me into a fat kid became reality one day, and
we ran, catching the moment, to the photographer so as to capture the embrace, having
hugged one another. Privileges, tenderly, like smoke rising, enveloped all aspect s of our
lives: from the free yearly tailoring of a new, fashionable suit from imported English
cloth on the Kuznetsky Bridge for papa, medical centers on Sivtsev Vrazhek with
carpeted hallways, extending palms in pots and kind doctors from children’s fairytales, a
clean, guarded entrance, since Comrade Vlasik, the all-powerful head of Stalin’s police
lived on our floor, the New Year’s tree in the Kremlin, smelling of Adzharian mandarins
with serious gifts, Film-books for viewing scarce films, special expeditions for books
(getting signatures for publication of collected works, volumes not available in regular
bookstores), theater tickets for any performances, right down to a reservation for the
Novodevichy Cemetery.
         We went to live on Trudovaya Street, a Soviet Ministry summer house outside of
Moscow in the summer in the long black ZIM, similar to the sharp- toothed American
cars at the end of the 1940s. There, in the immeasurable June sunsets, having been
overwhelmed by bicycles and bird cherries with a burp of fresh milk on sensual adult
lips, I played chess on the wooden porch with Marusya Pushkin, who was dating Sasha,
my father’s chauffeur in the black cap.
                                            
                                             
        A born winner (my parents named me in honor of the victory over Germany), I
won the first chess party of my life at Marusya’s. The world was full of good things:
flashlights, skyscrapers, metro stations, parks, with a curved-back, white benches, on one,
from which in the winter in the Сокольниках, despite the snowstorms, we continued
our eternal tournament. The chess pieces “walked” in snow up to my belt. I got the left-
over cough from the whooping cough; she, laughing easily, wiped her nose on her mitte n
with a hole in it. We were equal partners, “yawning” a lot, having confused “officers”
and “kings”, and by character, both - wild.
        It was difficult for me to learn to win. I threw horses and pawns on Marusya with
tears. Having made up, we caught them from thawed snow together. Spring always came
suddenly, having caught us on the way back to the metro, with streams, лунками around
the lindens, soaked boots, new, разряженным сольнцем, air. The family with the
maid, relatives, close friends, mama’s girlfriends turned into a dependable clan. I lived in
clover.

                                            
                                             
       From the article of the first secretary of the Moscow branch of the Party: Felix
Kuznetsov. Confusion between “Metropol” and “The Moscow Writer” February 9, 1979:
       <…> and shame, demanding the appearance of cover, in this collection the most
varied materials, overall. Here literary tastelessness and helplessness in abundance is
represented, grayness and vulgarity, only lightly covered with a primer of eternal
“absurdism” or a newly-appeared search for God. Practically all of the participants of the
joint meeting of the Secretariat and Party Committee of Moscow’s writer’s organizations,
where “Metropol” was discussed spoke about the very lowest level of this collection.
       And a paradoxical thing: strained conversations about the soul directly adjoining
here with immoral dirtiness in which the beginning writer V. Erofeyev is engaged, for
example, in story Edrena Fenya, whose hero contemplates inscriptions and images on
walls of a men’s bathroom and then moves with the same goals into the women’s. And
what about the title of the second story “The Lower Orgasm of the Ce ntury”! <…>

                                            
        Every Russian wants to be tsar, but not everyone is successful. Russian tsars were
always very democratic. My grandmother, Anastasia Nikandrovna, born in the Kostroma
Region, with the maiden name of Ruvimova, saw the last Russian tsar in St. Petersburg.
He, without any bodyguards, bought buttons on Nevsky Prospect in Gostiny Dvor.
Apparently, he lost buttons from his overcoat, didn’t ask anyone to buy them for him and
went there by himself. Not to offend anyone, but peacefully. He didn’t want to show
anyone that he was like the rest: stands and chooses buttons, but it turned out that way,
and grandma remembered the tsar forever, it was included in the modest ration of the best
reminiscences in her life. If Nicholas II hadn’t bought buttons in Gostiny Dvor, it’s
possible that her life would have been poorer in recollections, but this happened.
        “The tsar was indeed alone, without bodyguards?” - I asked her in my childhood,
during those very years when it was better not to talk about the tsar at all.
        And she answered, as if she’d not only seen how the tsar bought buttons in
Gostiny Dvor, but as if she was close to the tsar, so close that one couldn’t get any closer.
        “I didn’t notice anyone else.”
        “And no bodyguards?”
        “None.”
        “And his daughters weren’t around him?”
        “What man,” - grandma said surprised - “goes in Gostiny Dvor to buy himself
buttons with his daughters?”
        “Then maybe he was with his son?” - I insisted, just like a child.
        “Wait,” - she said, “I’ll tell you exactly what happened. I went to Gostiny Dvor to
buy myself white lace gloves…”
        “Maybe it wasn’t the tsar, and you just thought it was?” - suddenly came into my
head.
        Grandma even lost her train of thought. She looked at me with incomprehensible
eyes, as if I stole the watch from her wrist. Then when she regained reason, she turned
her back on me and didn’t talk the whole day.
        The next day - it was at the dacha - I asked her:
        “And how did you figure out that it was the tsar? By his epaulettes?”
        “The tsar didn’t have written that he is the tsar, on his epaulettes” - grandma said
enlighteningly.
        “So by his mustache, then?”
        “All men in Russia had mustaches then,” - grandma answered - “and besides that
many had beards.”
        “Then by his walk?”
        “He didn’t walk anywhere, he stood and rolled butto ns in his hand.”
        “And everyone knew it, or just you?”
        “I didn’t see anyone else. Just him.”
        “And did you buy gloves far away from him? How many feet were there between
you?”
        “I didn’t buy them yet, I was only comparing prices.”
        “Were you next to him?”
        They sold buttons and gloves in the same department at Gostiny Dvor.”
        “And he didn’t say anything to you? Couldn’t help you choose white lace
gloves?”
        “He was busy with his buttons.”
        “And how long did you stand next to one another in that department, he with his
buttons and you - with your white lace gloves?”
        “Idiot,” - grandma said - “such questions aren’t asked.”
        And she didn’t talk to me again for the entire day and was even quiet through
dinner, although dinner was tasty because she prepared it well. She made pirogies with
meat which were especially good. When she made meat pirogies, grandma became rosy-
cheeked. She talked about the tsar with such rosy cheeks.
        “And maybe the tsar was with his wife?” - I asked her already that winter, in our
apartment on Gorky Street.
        “Don’t be so curious,” - grandma said “it’d be better if you prepared your
lessons.”
        “So why did you call me an idiot then?”
        “I didn’t call you that.”
        “No, you did.”
        “You’re fibbing.”
        “I’m not fibbing.”
        “He was alone,” - said grandma - “He stood at the Gostiny Dvor and picked out
buttons for a really long time.”
        “And the tsarina?”
        “Only don’t tell anyone?”
        “I won’t.”
         “That I saw the tsar.”
        “Why?”
        “Promise?”
        “Yes.”
        “Absolutely no one?”
        “Even mama?”
        “Even mama.”
        “But I have to tell mama everything.”
        “But you don’t have to tell mama anything about the tsar.”
        “He’s more important than mama?”
        Grandma thought about it. She was my papa’s mother.
        “Do you know that your papa wants to leave your mother?”
        “Where?”
        I imagined how papa leaves mama on the road through the woods, covered in
snow and I got very scared and cold for him.
        Since then, and even now when I buy buttons, especially if it’s in Gostiny Dvor in
Petersburg, I feel like a Russian tsar.

                                           
        In the confusion of post-war birth, I, apparently, got someone else’s fate. In the
accompanying document, in the common traits explaining the matrix of my earthly
existence, were given actions and occurrences for which I was decidedly unprepared. A
black-golden panther with rabid energy took root in me, when there was a quiet trusting
animal at that time. I was sluggish. I couldn’t tie the laces on my shoes for hours; I didn’t
learn how to do it correctly. My shoes always came untied, and it made women w ho
walked next to me very angry. I hopped on one foot along the street, looking for
something on which to put my untied shoe. At first they liked it, this was my
distinguishing feature, they laughed at my clumsiness, but then these bitches became like
Satan.
        On the other hand, I was fast. I was a hurricane of desires, wiping up everything
around me. This wild incongruity could be seen in my childhood photographs. A wild
stare of black eyes, drilling the world so as to drill into it a totally new law, never-before
heard of, belonging to a shy, stooping child with a tender, charming smile, appearing on
cannibal lips. The huge holes of the nose are ready to breathe in the whole carpet of
smells, takes off its grass cover, to steal the aroma of food and drink. This nose with
trembling wings was especially aggressive and inhumane. A huge head, on which it was
never possible to get the right size, neither cap, nor uniform hat of the Soviet schoolboys,
of my protrusion, having the skull of a pre-historic ape, guessed, my classmates making
fun of me by calling me “ape”, was put on thin shoulders, and when I grabbed it with my
thin hands (which also remained thin), was something from Munch’s painting “The
Scream”.

                                             
                                              
         From Kevin Клоуз’s article: THE SOVIET UNION IS HARASSING
FOUNDERS OF THE NEW JOURNAL, International Herald Tribune
         Moscow (WP) Soviet authorities have begun a campaign of harassment pursuit
and threats to intimidate the founders of a new unofficial literary magazine that seeks to
challenge state control of the arts.
         The five editors of “Metropol” have been upbraided by the Moscow Writer’s
Union and several have been threatened with expulsion from the Union.
         The State publishing watchdogs, in the two weeks since the journal was
announced, have been withdrawing films, plays, novels and even magazines, containing
articles by any of the editors from circulation. <…>
         Vasily Aksenov, one of the Soviet Union’s most popular writers and principal
editor of “Metropol”, said that he has been accused of seeking notoriety in the West so he
can emigrate more easily.
         Mr. Aksenov, who has made several official trips to Western countries in recent
years and whose stories have been officially translated into English, said he has no
intention of emigrating. <…>
                                              
                                             
                                              
         I am standing in front of a black wooden pole. It’s summer. Feuds. I’m not sure
how old I am. Straight, short bangs and a totally short bowl-cut head. It’s possible there’s
a white hat on it, but I’m not sure. I’m sure of something else: there is an iro n tablet
nailed into the pole. On it - a skull and cross bones. It’s crossed out by a broken red
arrow. I’m standing in front of this pole in holy fear. It seems to me that if I touch this
wooden pole, I’ll be killed. I don’t know if this is true, but I ha ve a premonition that it is.
Every subsequent life’s impression is overlapped and crossed out by this arrow. I came
into life through the horror of death. Death woke me up. My first life’s impression - was
the wild fear of death. It made me what I am. I didn’t get over the shock. When I see a
skull and cross bones, the marks of electricians, I shudder, as if I am reminded about the
sense of my life.
         Tall pines, and goats are wandering around. They, to a lesser degree are personal
property than cows, which are practically not permitted. Death and goats on an idyllic
field. I want to pet the goats, I am scared to because of their horns, several of which were
sawn off. I rip out some grass, and hand it to the goats. They bleat and shit small balls. I
feed the goats grass. Goats - are the first animals to appear in my life. The goat’s song - is
my childhood genre. I stretch out my hand so as to touch the pole and pull it back. I’m
playing with death. The horror of death covers everything. Then everything gets dark.
But that summer consciousness wakes up once again and again concerns death.
         We’re driving in papa’s chocolate “Victory” along the highway. There are fields
around us. There is a sudden thunderstorm. A horrible hissing sound, - and an awful
explosion of thunder. Lighting strikes an electric pole right near the car. The base of the
pole turned into a flaming palm. Sparks fly in every direction. Death organizes an
exhibition stronger than I ever saw before either in the theater or in the movies. I got an
assignment and now I have to deal with it. The God-thunderer, whoever he might be,
poked me with his finger.
         The God-thunderer created order in my life. This was my first order. Later I often
got lost, went in a circle of chance, but death became my life’s guiding light, it beats to
its own rhythm, and I finally heard it. The powerful mechanism of the fear of death,
instilled in me from birth, worked. I don’t have any relationship to this mechanism - it’s
my personal matrix. I didn’t know of either the icon lamp or icon. My parents didn’t
christen me. Grandma didn’t secretly take me to church. In the Soviet Union, death was
considered not to exist. Death - was самоволка. Marxist philosophy bypassed death,
having pinched its nose. Corpse treatment was ugly, like deserters. The grave-digging
business was done worse than ever. For many years after the revolution unburied corpses
stank around the cemetery. Dogs, having become wild, including fine hounds and Borzoi
ate them. Then the quick way for corpse disposal was used - cremation. We grew up in
the country of musical boxes of the crematories. Only alcoholics became gravediggers. I
had to deal with death on my own, without mediators. The absence of priests close by
turned me into a maniac of death.

                                              
                                               
       When my face was lit up by holiday fireworks, when papa’s chauffeur Sasha
(who talked Marusya Puskina into living with him, promising to marry, but proved to be
a scoundrel, because in life, that isn’t our own, he was married) brought a New Year’s
tree into our apartment; and we began decorating it, standing on a chair and striving to
get to the top, so as to hang a red star there, on the branches - balls and fish, and on the
bottom to put my first childhood god with the rosy, Russian snub-nosed face coachman, I
felt that this was a short break. The Frost-God was cut out of world mythology by crude
scissors and left alone, until the pine needles fell off, for two weeks, until the old-style
New Year, but even this small shard of the world pantheon warmed me with its gifts. He
spoke about the secret of the world, he was my ally.
         Early on the morning of January 1 st , when my parents were still asleep, I jumped
out of bed, which was then in my parent’s bedroom near the window with the hot battery
of central heating, and ran into the dining room which smelled of pine needles, so I could
crawl under the tree. Santa Clause with the coachman’s face was surrounded by gifts.
         Because of battery overheating, I often dreamed of black people’s demonstrations.
My young life, wrapped in the arms of death, was cured by holidays and gifts. Life
consists of holiday and gifts; everything else - is misunderstanding. Life consists of
distractions from death. I wasn’t told about the morals of misfortune, slavery, cowardice.
I didn’t suffer from the humiliations of the communal apartment. My spontaneous morale
consisted of endless trust in the world, complete openness to it. I was that most open soul,
who was born in order to become the dancing god.
         I don’t understand how it’s possible to work the entire day, year after year for an
idiotic salary, with a short break for lunch, screaming from the bosses and gloomy
rudeness from the staff. I can guess why one has to work, but I don’t know - why? But
then I didn’t know from early childhood that there are two kinds of gifts. There are gift-
dreams, which you mustn’t even think about, and if you do, then only before bed. For
example, a railroad with a whole collection of cars, bridges and rails. Such gifts assure an
introduction into adult life, they turn around and direct one on the correct path for all
one’s life. And here mama comes up to you from behind, and you don’t even notice how
she comes up, you’re completely absorbed in the gift, and she pats you on your head.
This is the moment of complete happiness.
         And there are gifts of “leave me alone”. They’re bought without paying attention,
out of necessity, and a strange energy comes out of them, they smell like cooked
macaroni. So, some kind of game with chips or a “fake” fire engine with a ladder on
strings. You sit in front of such gifts and you pity yourself and your parents. Don’t look
like it, force yourself to be happy, hug mama, but think to yourself: “why are you like
that? I understand everything.”

                                            
       From my brother Andrei’s (he’s younger than me by eight- and-a-half years) letter
to my parents in Vienna:
                                                 Moscow 5/8/79

                                  Dear mama and papa,
        another one or two letters - and this ends our multi- year correspondence - an
entire epoch of my life. <…> I learned to write in these letters, but I couldn’t learn
completely - I write forced and badly.
        So now I’m in a difficult situation, - I don’t know what to write so as to calm and
cheer you up, because I myself am in complete confusion from this horrible situation,
which is difficult to believe. I see (more precisely hear in your voices) the frustration and
sadness from what happened, I also see Vitya’s experience, the consequence of the moral
strike, which he, so carelessly having come to the wrong conclusions of the outcome,
which he put himself through, and I’m sacred, very scared that all this might be fatal to
the relationships within our family, that it wouldn’t break them up. <…>
        Put up memory, like a tent, having pulled on a few spikes as the string of
reminiscences, and wait until I climb out of there - an artist “from nothing”. A family
album. I only know Ivan Petrovich Erofeyev from unconscious memory, which I could
never bring to the surface, however much I looked at our common photos, - at them on a
sunny, summer day we repair the wood-burning stove, - however I tried to remember his
songs, his Turkish hat and skullcap.
        GRANDPA: It’s good to be a policeman. Stand at your post, swing your stick
here and there - and nowhere.
        GRANDMA: Joker! No one else can joke like him.
        The joker-newcomer, whom I didn’t recognize, primogenitor of humor along the
Erofeyev line, became a small mound in the nineteenth sector of the Vagankovsky
Cemetery, but grandma affectionately explained to me that in Feuds grandpa played with
me for hours with cars.
        I was a passionate game player since childhood. In the sandbox I built a city,
highway, bridges, railroads, and then - with precision bombed it with a red-brown striped
ball for children’s football. Grandma said that grandpa played football with me also. I
was a reckless football player of the summer-resort section and forest clearings, where
trees found their purpose as stable football goalposts, you wanted to move them away or
toward one another, but, not remembering grandpa, to what phantom between the birch
and the asp did I hammer in goals?
        Besides that, I was a crazy cyclist on a three-wheeled bike. I pedaled crazily, I
shook on the stiffened snakes - roots of the pine trees, winding through the forest path, I
flew up, the bell rang in the air on its own. I especially loved, having sped up, to go
through puddles, having highly raised and spread my legs as wide as possible. I often got
stuck in the middle, turned the wheel and looked around for a long time. I knew that I’d
get stuck, but this was excess, stupid knowledge, and I went into the puddles regardless.
Adding to the mosaic of creative, original causes, I understand that it’s difficult to lessen
the role of the puddle in childhood life. These weren’t only obstacles, but also
temptations. I loved to beat the puddles with sticks. They splashed in all directions. I
stood there all wet. I was the subject of pure punishment. But still more, I loved to slowly
drag the stick through the puddle and then poke it into the gurgling bottom. The gurgling
sound cast a spell on me. I loved the traces of bicycle and car tire tracks in the dirt; the
idea of leaving tracks, making tracks made me crazy. Grandma always scolded me for
having dirty hands, dirt under my nails. They sent me to wash my hands and clean my
nails my whole childhood. I was the sculptural composition like the girl with the pitcher -
the boy at the summerhouse washstand, nailed to the tree. My love for women rose out of
gurgling puddles.
              Ivan Petrovich died of a heart attack in the Kremlin hospital on Granovsky
Street, not recognized by me. When I grew older, grandma, arguing with me, said that it
was I who killed grandpa. Guilt was put on me, like something choking, and I looked at
grandma in horror with burning eyes.
        GRANDMA: You were capricious and demanded that he carry you on his
shoulders. And he, poor thing, carried you and he wasn’t supposed to.
        This was convincing. Then everyone killed somebody. Some - the Germans,
others - their own. I killed my grandpa.
        GRANDMA: He died two weeks before receiving the Lenin Medal.
        Everything was my fault. If one were to follow this family logic, then, since I
killed my grandfather, I should kill my father too.

                                            
       From my last letter to my parents in Vienna of May 8, 1979.

                                       Dear mama and papa,

        This moral cross which events put on me is heavy, very heavy. I don’t even know
what to say: they punished me very skillfully - to you, your bitterness, and it’s clear,
disappointment with me. It’s possible, of course, to start with my explanations on paper
and give freedom to built-up emotions - but what will that do? The paradox is cruel:
desiring to make something necessary and correct, I inflicted injury on those people
closest to me, from whom I saw nothing but good, - you. I pray to God for only one
thing: such that in these bad, sick days, we preserve unity in our family, preserve mutual
understanding and trust. I constantly think about all this…

                                            
        I was silent, like a partisan, until three-and-a-half years old. The only exception:
ai! When I knocked at the kitchen of the neighbor’s endless apartment, where the giant
Boris Fyodorovich with lively, attentive eyes lived, together with a whole collec tion of
relatives, spongers, meowing cats, crawling out of various rooms, their maid, the Polish
Zosya asked me through the door:
        “Who’s there?”
        “Ai!” - I answered instead of “me”.
        And everyone made fun of me. “Ai” became my nickname, password, sunny
reckless essence. I broke in my life with the clownish scream “ai!” During the period of
my childhood dreams: I was like a member of an African tribe overtaking: the
cosmization of man and the anthropomophization of the cosmos - two parallel processes,
defining his world outlook. I searched for my reflection in all the mirrors of the
anthropomorphous universe, where grandma, Marusya Pushkina, a bug, and an ant
appear as preservers of the word. It was precisely by means of this prolonged muteness,
the word made me its carrier, chose me, wrote its incoming information on me.
        I was also that child-word, born unto the world for its pronunciation. All the kids
spoke around me - I kept quiet. African mystics know that many means and ways exist,
the goal of which is to simplify the birth of the word. For me, having lived in Moscow,
clearly didn’t fit their core: pipe and tobacco, use of the cola nut, sawing one’s teeth, the
habit of rubbing their teeth with coloring substances, mouth tattooing. I guessed that the
birth of the word was bound to considerable risk, because it breaks up the harmony of
silence. Silence, secretly possesses the initiative of importance, since the world originally
existed without words. My speech, up to now, was hindered, I am instinctively tongue-
tied, and during childhood this was complete trouble (I spoke, blushing from
embarrassment), my lips strained, cramped up, I don’t understand people who speak
easily, television newscasters, commentators, I relate to chatterboxes as I would to
traitors. The well-known Stalinist poster with the honest woman with her finger raised to
her lips: don’t gossip secrets! - I like metaphysically, its horrible for me to speak: I am
afraid to rip the world open, from which the guts of the phenomena and consequences
will seep out, I know that there is no sense in the cause-result relationship. In my
childhood dreams, originally, I didn’t need speech, because everything that existed,
understood the unheard word, the endless rustle of the air.
         The situation developed this way. I saw a rough embodiment of a phallic deity in
a tree. I saw a heavenly half-God pouring water from itself, like from a fountain. They
exchanged information without words. But I didn’t know, being Ai, that the phallic
deity’s wife, having given birth not only to greenery but also to animals, was jealous of
her husband toward all other women created by the demigod. I felt that there was
something wrong there, I couldn’t understand it then, but I understand now that he slept
with them. Then I felt their rather strained relations. It’s possible that the woman couldn’t
stand it and also betrayed her husband: there she goes home in the Moscow metro in her
white blouse, the next station - Mayakovsky, its almost time to get out on the platform,
and then the phallic deity, similar to a tree, pursues her, grabs her by the throat and
squeezes it. Between the nervous spouses from such a rough clarification of relations in
the bedroom, with a colorful Dagestan carpet covering the whole wall behind the bed,
pauses emerge in the noise of breathing, necessary for the generation of words and
occurrence of speech. I begin to understand that the word - is the result of betrayal, the
form of its discourse, and creep under the sofa.
         Long- lost items, games, coins of little value, wrappers of eaten candy roll under
the low, dusty sofa. I keep quiet, shocked by the truth revealed to me. After me under the
sofa crawls in brown socks my contemporary and third-cousin Lena, having arrived in
Moscow to visit from Kerch. She wants to live with us, to register, but something is
interfering. The word “Kerch” still crunches like sand in my teeth and is somehow
similar to the word “heart”. Her father - is a military pilot with the flying surname of
Yelagin. In the summer she and I played on Trudovaya Street in thick raspberry bushes
which scratched our hands in the dressing station: we showed one another our infantile
bodies, genitalia. I understand that I myself consist partly of Lena, from her joints,
nipples, shocked not only by the secret words, but also from her vertical cut. I know,
already under the sofa, that I will have a parallel life, but I don’t know with whom and
when. Androgenes was put in me. This is stronger than insanity. Huge-headed, with
white skinny provincial braids, Lena appears to be the first embodiment of a me-girl, the
closest essence, lifetime co-conversationalist. I don’t have enough of myself. I have to
speak, but at my disposal there is no cola, nor even tobacco. However, now I can explode
from the silence. Lena, as an experienced scout made her way into my underpants. She
pulls out my member and creeps up to it with her mouth, coiling the iridescent snake.
Breathing heavily, she blows me. Our faces are distorted by the bliss of three-times-
removed incest. It grows with every second.
        “Darling,” - I say stroking Lena’s head.
        She can’t hold back, crawls out from under the couch and runs to the dining room.
        LENA: “Aunt Galya, Aunt Galya, Vitya spoke!”
        “Why are there so many militia?!” I shout in an angry voice, taking my turn
crawling out from under the sofa.
        I see, as I walk along Blagoveshchensky Lane by the commission store with small
display windows, as if they’re embarrassed by their bourgeois goods, and a company of
militiamen march toward me. Where are they going? Why?
        MAMA: “They’re going to the bathhouse.
        Indeed, the militiamen had bath towels under their arms. They’re marching to
bathe.
        “Vitya spoke!” - mama screams.
        “He’ll grow up to be a dissident,” Andrei Mikhailovich Alexandrov-Agentov,
Brezhnev’s future aide shook his head.
        I have difficulty saying, when in reality I lost my innocence: it seems I was born
guilty. Somewhere far away, in the perspective of the dining room, appears a blade of
grass: the figure of grandma Lilya, Anastasia Nikandrovna’s younger sister. She plays the
role of a saint in the family: she never has any money. When she stays at grandma’s,
grandma follows her so that she doesn’t turn over on the sofa so as to make a hole in the
sofa at night, but grandma Lilya always crossed her arms and said:
        “Nastenka, Nastenka…”

                                              
         Memory is like a corpse, eaten by the favorite dog. Remaining alone in the
apartment, for hours it howls from fear and hunger, running around the dead owner, but
hunger takes over its devotion: it eats the owner, carefully at first, his naked hands firs t of
all, but then can’t hold back, its mind becomes cloudy, it rips him in pieces, shaking its
head in different directions, growling. The resurrection of the consumed corpse of the
master is an unimaginable miracle, but sometimes it happens. The master s hudders.
Pieces of the torn meat and skin stick with a whistle back on his hands, legs, calves,
genitalia. The eaten innards are thrown up from the dog’s jowls return to the master’s
open stomach. Holes from the bullets close. Blood spots disappear completely from the
wall; the bloody puddle disappears from the floor. Eyes are put back in their sockets. The
stomach closes and grows hair, which at one point women loved to stroke. The smell of
decomposition disappears. The heart beats. The master gets up, goes to the hanger; the
happy dog, wagging its tail, runs after him in expectance of a walk. The collar is on. The
door is open onto the landing of the stairs. The master and the dog step down, slam the
door, go out onto the street. While the dog does his business in the closest square, the
master looks around. He went out for a walk not so as to get revenge or to argue. He’s
looking for sweet reconciliation not only with his enemies, but also within he himself. He
smiles. He’s happy.

                                              
        I drank a toast to Comrade Stalin only once in my life: on my birthday when I was
five. The kids gathered, among them the two brilliant Podtserobov brothers: the
preschooler Cyril, who first became a drunk, having thrown up in the sink, always
standing under his ascetic bed, and then - a drug addict, having driven in his dreams and
in reality on his grandmother’s shoulders around their huge apartment, and the student
Lyosha, a wholly, over-striven boy, early and ecstatically loved the Near East for some
reason, who had a huge map hung on his wall (looking at this map, I also enviously
wanted something to passionately love, some piece of land, - visually I liked Africa, but I
didn’t know why it was necessary, America was painted in a cold hostile color, I didn’t
guess loving Russia then - and have remained with nothing), subsequently reached
quickly, like along the rails, directly to the place of one’s life’s goal: he became the
Soviet Ambassador to the Arab country. Lyosha knew everything better than anyone,
well, in any case, better than me. With me he was condescending and spoke so assuredly
and in an exact manner that I got confused, and so as to somehow hold up my end of the
conversation, asked stupid, confused questions, in seconds changing my views on the
diametrically opposed position. My entire childhood mama was deathly afraid that I
would grow up a burdock - I didn’t show any signs of wonderkidship, - put Lyosha and
the young beautiful Milachka Vorozhtsova with black curls as an example for me. There
was little hope for me, honestly speaking, practically none, and I didn’t even dare fall in
love with Milachka, understanding my defective brain. We just sat down at the table, just
poured tomato juice into glasses, Marusya just brought a steaming fish pie from the
kitchen, when Boris Fyodorovich’s elder son, having jumped up from his chair, pushed
his lips forward, as if he planned to spit (he always talked like he was spitting), but
instead of that, made the first toast, not in honor of me, but to Stalin.
        LYOSHA: I propose drinking to Comrade Stalin!
        Everyone stood up. There wasn’t really confusion at the table, but my mother was
surprised: we never drank to Stalin at our house, it wasn’t proper, not political, but by
pathos. I felt this confusion and, like a monkey, went to toast, so as to overlook it.
Besides that, I loved to toast, because all the adults toast, and I, up until that point
couldn’t toast in earnest. Beside that, I again shocked by the feeling of delight in front of
the boys, who were older and better than me.
        The celebration ended in bloodshed. Running around the table after the guests,
after the inaccessible Milachka, the general’s daughter, who was impossible to catch, I
flew into the corner of the table cut the corner of my mouth. And it’s remained half-cut.
My mouth, if one looks carefully, isn’t symmetrical.
        Mama grabbed me, covered in blood, and took me to the clinic on Sivtsev
Vrazhek, where there were a lot of palms and where the guard absolutely refused to let us
in because mama forgot her pass. I was scared to be covered in blood - they didn’t let us
in. They didn’t let us in for such a long time that I was left with the impression that blood
would pour from my mouth for my entire childhood. Mama turned into a wild tiger,
screamed at the guard, begged and threatened, but the guard was relentless.
        And he stayed that way.

                                            
         I compensated for the sick incongruity between the parts of my “me” by patricide.
Thanks to him I got myself in tune with what I had to do, the sense of which began to
unwind over the course of my future life. I jumped into my fate, although I often doubted
it again. Childish breaks, my cut mouth, remained with me forever. Found firmness
didn’t become life’s mandate. Human weakness distracted me and even later, weakened
my attention, didn’t allow for the opportunity to overcome tests with the ease of a t rained
sportsman. Just the opposite, I painfully fell and rubbed my wounds for a long time. But
regardless it let me somehow to understand (a good mistake) - to understand that cocktail
in which I imagined myself, in its ingredients. I didn’t understand everything, and I didn’t
have to understand everything, but Russia helped me with that. I don’t know if it’s worth
it to thank her. I was sent there (here) with some kind of secret mission. To live in Russia
- is the same as walking on the ceiling. This is - inverted vision. I don’t know where my
real motherland is. Most likely, it’s not on any map. But Russia was the place of my
childhood paradise.

                                             2

         From my birth I was responsible for such a wild piling up of worldwide
situations, that I must recognize it as a matter of the naked, but in its own meticulous
event. The fruit of an “accidental family”, par excellence, I, most likely, among all the
possible heraldic attributes, and without the poet Osip Mandelshtam’s help, would have
chosen a crooked pool stick, a pock-marked balloon and a holy billiard pocket for
myself, because neither my father or nor I were good pool players. Even our closest
ancestors live namelessly in my conscious, expressed on the fast, half-wiped off
professions, sometimes authentic, like a porter or a priest, sometimes very fictitious like a
professional revolutionary, just like my grandmother not without secret goals, wrote in
my memory of her father, Nikander whom I didn’t know. Grandma generally made
thinks up. True, on my mother’s side, we have a light touch, not only toward ourselves,
and therefore the little-effective nobility of her grandfather, but also through the very
complicated system of brother- and sister- in-laws, but more specifically, through the
rather colorful Kyandinsky family, toward Russian culture: the creator, at least, of the
national radio to Popov, that means to the family of the chemist Mendeleyev, and that
means, in the final analysis, to Alexander Blok. But this isn’t a distant thing, but the
family dregs. Not knowing how to begin the conversation about the circumstancesof the
private conspiracy, enemy honor and common sense, I would nevertheless stop at the
little-known, unsuccessful English-American intervention at Murmansk after the October
Revolution. Their collapsed, snow-covered graves were shown on television once. My
grandma- inventor on my father’s side, Anastasia Nikandrovna Ruvimova, was very
good- looking. She lived on the very border with Finland, in Sestroretska, where her
father had five summer houses for rent. She walked on average 50 versts a day on skis
and liked the Finn Yuho. Not long before her death, watching a Russia-Finland hockey
match, she, with light nostalgia for her quiet life which passed, said to me:
         “If I’d have married Yuho, I’d be homesick for Finland.”
         She dated a tall man with beautiful black rings under his eyes, by the name of
Ivan. In 1918, being saved from hunger, moved with her family from Sestroretska to
Petrograd, from there - to Karelia. Ivan didn’t hide his intention to marry Anastasia, but
then the Americans attacked.
        One young cunning guy with glasses worked at the Karelia railroad as a
bookkeeper. The Bolsheviks made him responsible for mobilization. Having fallen in
love with my grandmother’s beauty, Ivan Petrovich Erofeyev put the tall Ivan first on the
mobilization list, although he didn’t have a white ticket. They shaved Ivan’s head, sent
him to Murmansk and he disappeared without any news in a battle with the Americans.
        Then - was operation insertion. Having heard Tatiana’s aria from the opera
“Eugene Onegin”: “But I belong to another. I’ll be faithful to him for a century…” In
1920, having returned to Petrograd, Anastasia Nikandrovna met her first Ivan on the
street by chance.
        “Too late, Vanya,” - my grandmother said, already pregnant with my father. I
don’t think the Americans perished for nothing at Murmansk.
        Subsequently, so that life would be happier, grandma painted the geneology of her
husband in bright, unsuitable colors. As a result, my great-grandfather, Petr Erofeyev,
picturesquely left a rural sexual hero in greased boots, a prosperous miller in a house with
lace door jams, having replaced many wives, father of nineteen sons, the last of whom
was born when he was almost eighty. The man with the glasses d idn’t give in to
adorning, but he was noted for a kind character, absent-mindedness, confirmed by a
history with Eskimos, melted while he was out strolling in Sunday pants, and that he
called his grandmother “commissar” in anger, that clearly affected his mood after Chekist
occurance on Gorohovaya Street, where they took him for interrogation, under Felix
Dzerzhinsky’s hot hand, having demanded from him, under the barrel of a gun, to show
the secret hiding place of the gold which grandpa never had.
        IVAN PETROVICH: “God be with you! What gold!”
        DZERZHINSKY: “God isn’t with us. God - is against us. But we’ll finish him.”
        Ivan Petrovich understood that Dzerzhinsky pronounced “God” like they do in
Poland, and that he imagined this God to be a dark and distant God. He took his wedding
ring off his finger and handed it to Dzerzhinsky.
         IVAN PETROVICH: “This is all I have.”
        DZERZHINSKY: “Put it back on! Without demonstration. Nemzer!”
        Nemzer entered with the face of a poet.
        DZERZHINSKY: Send this citizen (he covered Ivan Petrovich’s face with flour
from his stare)… home!
        Death made its place so strongly in my genes, that the first childhood impression
became the summer house electric pole with the skull and crossbones; the pole of horror:
touch it - and die. When my grandmother was young and decided to join the Bolshevik
Party so as to participate in the food gathering, grandfather warned:
        “Join the Party - I’ll divorce you!”
        “It’s a shame,” grandma told me when I was little, “had I been a veteran of the
Party, I could have spoken on the radio.”
        In the 1920s, the couple, together with half the country, joined the grumbling
inhabitants, with suffering growing into socialism. And they had my father as a son, who
lived happily for eight years and drowned during a vacation on the Volga - it was a
miracle he was resuscitated. My father, never having reminisced about the subsequences
of his boring, sickly childhood, finished school with only the highest marks, submitted
papers to the architectural institute, expressing delight by the deeds of the Soviet hero-
Polar explorers. But he didn’t become like Chelyuskin - he didn’t pass because of his
health (weak lungs). Then, to the joy of my grandfather, the chief bookkeeper for the
railroad union, he got into the railroad institute with the inhuman abbreviation of
LIIZHT, similar to the noise of the braking distance of the locomotive, but at the last
moment began studying at the third Institute of Higher Education, by chance: it came to
mind to go fight voluntarily in Spain. Not having a talent for philosophy, indifferent to
“artistic literature”, which was always put in quotes, he joined the филфак of Leningrad
State University, so as to learn Spanish in the name of the world revolution.

                                           
        Translators walked along the corridors of the university with new medals - my
young father dreamed of going together with them by submarine to the Spanish shores.
Thin, in the only brown velour coat, he already was a well- formed Soviet man, a strong-
willed Komsomolets through and through. But instead of Spanish, due to Franco’s
victory, he began studying French.
        “Comrade Erofeyev,” - Stalin asked him ten years later during his personal
introduction to the Kremlin Cabinet, where Lenin’s death mask was put in a prominent
place - “Where were you born?”
        Stalin, according to my father, always spoke in a “very low tone and made many
grammatical mistakes.” There was a clear impression, he added recently, that this person
was of “Caucasian nationality”. My father didn’t hear the leader’s question.
        “At Leningrad State University, Iosif Vassarionovich.”
        “You were born right there at the University?!”
        Stalin cheered up unbelievably. He began to laugh, grabbing his side, having
showed in every way: “so, you killed me! Oy, I can’t anymore!”
        At that moment Beria and Molotov appeared on the threshold of Stalin’s office so
as to be present during the discussions with the foreign guests. They stood there, not
understanding anything, symmetrically shining in their glasses. How could this thin
young man make the leader laugh so much? What’s the secret here and what are they
talking about? They didn’t allow themselves to ask - Stalin didn’t consider it necessary to
explain it to them.
        “OK, you made me laugh,”- he said to my father affably.
        My father was noticed.
        “Let’s get down to business,” - Stalin said in a serious tone, inviting everyone to
sit. “So, work peacefully, don’t worry,” - he nodded to my father. “I speak very loudly,
you can ask me again. That’s why I speak slowly.
        He called Poskrebyshev with a bell:
        “Did the guest arrive? Invite him in!”
        Maurice Thorez, head of the French Communists, entered with a quick step.
        “Well, Bonjour!” - Stalin sincerely greeted him.
        My father began translating. Sometimes he felt Beria’s attentive, unblinking stare
from under his glasses on him. Stalin, according to Molotov, called these eyes snake-like.

                                           
         My father’s predecessor, Stalin’s French translator was relieved of his job for
having mixed up aviation terminology of the French delegation from Paris.
         “I have such an impression, that I know French better than you,” - Stalin told him.
         “Stalin behaved modestly,” - my father noted about his first meeting with the
leader. “His charm had a strong effect on me.”
         However, my father could only have made the Father of the People happy
because, every year, during his youth, in the middle of March he became a victim of a
strange angina with abscesses in his throat and a temperature of 104о .
         Having joined the филфак, my father also didn’t suspect that Russian philology
wasn’t less dangerous for his life than the Spanish Civil War.
         “On March 12, 1939 I again lounged in bed and worried horribly, that due to this
illness I can’t join in on the party. Our group celebrated the birthday of a classmate, the
poet Sergei Klyshko.
         Klyshko was a daring head. He wrote poems against Stalin right during lectures,
touching the paper with his messy hair. He and my father became friends, saw one
another every day. Girls liked both of them. My father convinced him to be more careful.
He waived him off. Having become drunk in the dorm room, Sergei recited urban
folklore to my father:

                              Stalin, Trotsky and Ulyanov -
                              This is a bunch of hooligans.

        My father laughed hesitantly. Every one of Klyshko’s happy guests were arrested
the following day as participants of an “anti-Soviet gathering”.
        It scared me. But I knew that Sergei wasn’t embarrassed by his behavior, telling
anecdotes, reading anti-Soviet poems aloud. Probably, someone informed on him. They
soon let the girls go, but the guys sat for a long time, some got their ribs broken. They
damaged Kostya Ivanov’s liver - they beat him half-dead, demanding information,
although he, on that evening, having drank vodka, passed out right there at the table and
didn’t see or hear anything. Sergei was sentenced “to the maximum”.
        ““The maximum” - for poetry?” - I asked melancholy.
        “It was clear to me that it wasn’t worth reading them.”
        It was difficult to argue with this. Our conversation made the rounds and quickly
dissipated. Mass terror, which was all around, everywhere, nearby, about which
thousands of books were written; weren’t acknowledged for a long time in my father’s
family. They weren’t hidden from him, weren’t put in a corner, but simply were ignored.
But they arrested so many that regardless, it finally became terrible. It shook Leningrad
University, full of philological stars. The NKVD took the bearded Latin professor
directly to the auditorium right in front of my father. They arrested him so elegantly, the
young officer even helped him on with his coat, and they took him out of the auditorium
so graciously, patting him on the back, that the Latin teacher left smiling - just as if he
was going to the teacher’s lounge to have tea. From the close circle of family friends,
having gathered at Ivan Petrovich and Anastasia Nikandrovna’s on Zagorodny Prospect
to play cards on Saturday evenings, they grabbed Fedyakin, the railway worker who wore
a Party medal. Fedyakin sometimes asked abstract questions:
        “Is it possible, Ivan Petrovich, when it’s raining, to walk along the street between
the drops of water, not getting wet?”
        “Well, for this, first you and I have to loose weight,” - joked Ivan Petrovich.
        When Fedyakin disappeared, the family shrugged their shoulders: for what? - but
after decided that “they know better”.

                                            
        My father’s life changed in an instant. A second-year student was called by letter
in September 1939 to Smolny - the cradle of the Revolution. It was my father’s fate as the
Communist rank of Secretary of the City Committee to affably thrust into his hands the
newspaper “Leningrad Truth” with a photo of Stalin, Molotov and Ribbentrop,
exchanging smiles. This was a Soviet-Nazi wedding.
        “Do you know who this young man next to Stalin is?”
        “A translator,” - my father guessed.
        “Would you like to become such a translator?”
        “Yes.”
        “Who are your parents?
        The non-Party member railway worker Ivan Petrovich didn’t get objections.
Anastasia Nikandrovna already didn’t work there. She left her job as secretary of the
Leningrad branch of UnionFoto, supplying photos to local newspapers. She received the
ordered films, sent them for development, then - to press. The advanced world of photos
made her an important and even slightly capricious person. All my childhood she called
me some funny surname boss, like Tyunkin- Ryumkin (I remembered Tyutikov!) to
whom she related with emphasized tenderness: for her Tyutikov was the most important
client of photos and still more courting her than other photographers. Besides which,
grandma met with various famous “heads” of Soviet writers. She always spoke unkindly
about writers and was very worried when I became a writer.
        GRANDMA: “A writer? What are you saying! All writers - are drunks.”
        “It’ll come, sometimes, rocks back and forth” - she said, confusing Tvardovsky
and Simonov, Katayev with Fadeyev.
        This was the time of group photographs. Everyone took rows, groups, factories,
schools, hospitals, turning them at the same time into Soviet people. Once UnionFoto
missed a group photo, in into which the enemy of the people, Pytakov, got himself. The
vigilant newspaper didn’t publish the photo, but a scandal arose.
        “How could I know what he looks like!” - grandma told her favorite boss
Tyunkin-Ryumkin in her defense. In any case, she quickly quit upon Ivan Petrovich’s
demand. Tyunkin-Ryumkin was thrown out of the Party. Ivan Petrovich got a cat, named
it Zhmurik and began spoiling it. If grandma wasn’t there, the cat lived on the couch.
When her steps were heard on the staircase, Ivan Petrovich screamed:
        “The Commissar is coming!”
        Zhmurik jumped up from the couch, ran around the apartment and hid under the
waste basket.
        “We’re sending you to Moscow,” - Smolny told my father.
        My father didn’t protest. Subsequently he admitted to me with irony that if he
didn’t agree, then, finally, he would defend some kind of candidate dissertation about the
role of articles or prefixes in the French language of the seventeenth century. Philology
didn’t inspire respect for him. It was depressing, like his childhood. At the appointed time
my father arrived at the October Train Station with a wooden suitcase in order to go study
at the Higher School for translators of the Central Committee of the All- Union
Communist Party. Parting on the platform with his parents, Zhmurik (Ivan Petrovich held
him in his hands) and friends was emotional.
        “Safe trip!” - they said.
        “Until we meet again,” - he answered.

                                            
        My father grew up with a special extra- individual vision. Thanks to the regime for
a higher education, movement up - is nothing in and of itself. They didn’t use the system
like rascals, but became totally saturated with it, and saw exactly what it wanted them to
see. They stopped being, at first unconsciously ready for death. The system didn’t kill
unrealized poets as it always happens with all the dictators that respect themselves just a
bit, as much as they were fed by non-existence. The victim-producing terror wasn’t a
whim, but logic of its survival, the genial mathematical conclusion from the difference
between the promised future and human material sent to be changed. Stalin waged war
against human nature. No one did this (the Holy Inquisition - weaklings!) ever in history.
The people - scoundrels, comrades in the Party - shit. All of them, even Molotov pull
back, in the right-wing trend, into the feeding trough of private property. Stalin cut them
generation after generation.
        STALIN: I want to derive frost-resistant lemons.
        The metaphysical summons, worthy of a former seminarian. The success of the
measures depended as much on Russian giving- in as on continual renovation, cleansing
themselves from those who kept this difference in their minds. The future was like a
joyful breath from the removal of anonymity.
        I was surprised at first - and understood: in vain, when my father said that he
didn’t worry in Stalin’s presence. As opposed to the intelligentsia who worried at the
sight of the leader, who were born into worry about anecdotes about Stalin, my father
existed as one of his continuances, an additional quantum of light. It was difficult to
return home from this situation.

                                            
        Translation courses at the Central Committee of the All-Union Communist Party
on Miyuskaya Square - The Tsar’s Village Lyceum of 1939. For a hundred students -
there are a hundred professors and administrators. The students study foreign languages
and during their free time they are fed well and even have their rooms cleaned. Here,
studying in the English section is my deep-touched mama- from Novgorod: papa began to
date her, even kissed her once upon meeting, there were also letters, proudly signed
Vladimir, mama was especially worried about this signature, but she couldn’t wait for the
next meeting, sitting in a new orange sweater: he crossed over to her neighbor- friend-
beauty along the narrow room, Lyuba, and she, red-headed, began to proudly enter,
moving her hips from side to side after her meeting with my father in the dormitory. The
poet Boris Smolensky, refused by Lyuba, having dedicated a lot of poems to her, suffered
no less than mama, but because of the common refusal, they didn’t have an affair. Mama
concentrated on languages and became an intelligent girl, loved art. My father played in
the student theater. He, in a sailor’s uniform, jumped on stage - a ship’s deck - with
bulging eyes screams: Stand from unde r! - and hides behind the curtains. The theater
predicts his upcoming future.

                                            
         Should I judge the signs of the 20 th century? If there was one shooting less, one
Auschwitz oven less, it could happen that I wouldn’t be here. Striving for self-
victimization for the previous dates isn’t accepted.
         In the beginning of the war, my father, at that time already graduated, having
already taken exams at the translator’s school, prepared in the special- forces in
diversionary acts of sabotage behind enemy lines. For the last time before being sent to
the front lines, he unsuccessfully jumped with a parachute, broke his leg, landed in a tall
fir tree and ended up in the hospital. The surgeons decided to amputate his leg up to the
knee, being scared of gangrene. Write a refusal. My father wrote it. He lay in the corridor
listening to his hot leg. His temperature was high - he was delirious. His chances -
practically none. Some young doctor, by chance saved him, having decided to try a
preparation on his leg - Vishnevsky cream. Two times a day the doctor patiently rubbed
the cream on my father’s leg. Vishnevsky materialized from this cream after several years
already at our home: noisy, big, like a general: he drank French cognac. My parents, in
comparison to him, were little people from Russian literature. There were a lot of bread
crumbs on the table, left from dinner. He guided his finger along my spine - and wasn’t
happy. On his acquaintance, he removed mama’s appendix and made, in her words,
virtuoso stitches in front of his students. The whole group, having flown out without my
father to blow up bridges on the Smolenshchina, were killed.
         “So, kid, consider yourself lucky,” - the surgeon who suggested cutting off papa’s
leg said, reshuffled the cards.
         After the hospital my father, having found it by chance, was invited to work at the
People’s Commissariat of Foreign Affairs, which was then called MID, since the majority
of its staff, thrown into the volunteer army to defend Moscow in October 1941, perished
when they were surrounded.
         “You’ll walk along red carpets and forget about us,” - the commander told him
when they parted.

                                            
        The Germans fought well at sea! Just take one of their courageous deeds; the
world stood still having found out about it: a U-47 submarine rammed into the British
base at Scapa Flow (the Lieutenant Captain Prien; October 14, 1939) and sank the
battleship Royal Oak. Hitler became a threat on the oceans. His struggle against
navigation in the Arctic during blitzkrieg on Russia was under the leadership of Grand
Admiral Raeder, a religious man, not allowing dirt in the fleet and in the methods of
naval war. However, the German military-naval fleet allowed Raeder a unique formula:
“war without hate”. The enemy of my generation, together with Raeder and Rear-
Admiral Doenitz, the German submarines and trans-polar aviation was the battleship
Tirpitz.
         “We decided to send you abroad, to Sweden,” - Dekanozov, the Deputy Minister
of Personnel told my father. “The diplomats will train you there. Kollontai - is an
experienced ambassador. Do you have any questions?”
         Beria’s Minister, Dekanozov would be shot in 1953, but he didn’t know this yet.
Work in neutral Sweden will be, of course, happiness. He’d find even a bit of personal
time so as to absorb his daughter in the anti- fascist physics of Nils Bohr, but, according to
the law of the magic fairytale, in order to reach happiness, the hero must undergo fatal
tests.
         “And what should I go there in?” - my father dared ask, standing in front of
Dekanozov in a military shirt.
         “Go abroad, there you’ll change your clothes.”
         So my father became Odysseus. Sweden was cut off from her allies. Norway and
Denmark were under occupation. Finland fought on the German side. They ordered my
father to go to Kuybyshev, from there - to Archangelsk, further by naval caravan to
England and God only knows how to Stockholm.
         If I were to write a Hollywood scene, I would begin with the bombardment.
Demand: this film is about the daring of the American and English sailors - “Titanic” is
resting. The Germans bomb wooden Archangelsk. Archangelsk burns. Flames storm
around the hotel “Intourist” brick, rare for the city, where my father lives. The allies don’t
dare release their fleet for the return trip. My father stayed for a long time in
Archangelsk.
         “Comrade, you’re also going to Sweden? A fellow-traveler? What’s your name?
Vladimir, lets go eat stewed meat!”
         In the hotel’s hall, up to one’s ankles in ashes, two young diplomatic couriers in
black hats are throwing cans of stewed meat to one another, as if they were playing
rugby.
         “Vladimir this is really lend- lease!” - the diplomatic couriers continue throwing
the cans. The caravans of transport ships in the convoy of military ships deliver us
strategic shipments, equipment and - opla! catch it! - stewed meat! from England and the
United States. Our raw materials go back. Let’s drink! Vodka - the best medicine against
the smell of burnt cinders.
         “We already sailed to Sweden for the third time.” The first diplomat threw his hat
on the bed in a room for two.
         “How was it?” - my father asked.
         “There’s no death! War, and also human life, consists basically of counting.”
         “Shut up, nameless!” - the second diplomat poured the vodka into cut glasses.
“The more I’m scared of death, the further it gets from me.”
         “Volodya, don’t listen to him! The Germans concentrated the largest military-
naval fleet in the North headed by the battleship Tirpitz.
         “The displacement is 52,600 tons and has a compliment of 2,608 men,” - the
second diplomat learns. “This - is a city! No one has such a ship!
         My father made an understanding face.
        “We have a maid here, Volodya!” - The first twisted his lip. “The experienced
Lyubov Orlova. An experienced person. So why do all the actresses sleep with the
directors?”
        “Together with the battleship,” - the second continues - “beyond the Arctic Circle
are cruisers,” - he counts on his fingers - Scharnhorst, (I don’t think it was there, I
checked a reference book. -author’s note) Admiral Sheer, Lutzow, Koln and Nurnberg.
Five!
        “After the war Nurnberg will sail under our flag. It will be renamed Admiral
Makarov!” The first laughs.
        “Wait! They’re escorting more than twenty of the most modern destroyers. 520
German planes and the considerable force of the submarine fleet began to operate under
the command of…”
        “Rear-Admiral Doenitz,” - my father added. “Why are you glad?”
        “The hammer! Hitler gave Doenitz the task of completely closing the passage to
our Northern ports.”
        STALIN:       Сосо with Istomina in bed
                      Lay in embarrassing nakedness…

        The diplomats look around.
        “Volodya, did you hear anything?”
        “No.”
        “And we also didn’t hear anything.”
        “If we don’t explode then we’ll get through!” - the first diplomat said, happily
glancing at the stamped bags of diplomatic mail. “Volodya, let’s drink!
        In July 1942 the Soviet submariner Lunin successfully attacked the Tirpitz. The
battleship leaves for repair in the fjords of Norway, although in Western historical
science it’s considered that Lunin with his submarine K-21 is an advertising trick. In any
case, the path for allied ships is open. Toward the beginning of September the QP-14
convoy is formed: a few Soviet and English dry-cargo ships, tankers, like little children,
surrounded by the attentive English and American military vessels. Soviet military
governesses aren’t in escort. You look at the caravan - yeah it’s invincible: a group of
cruisers, twenty destroyers, Air Defense ships, eleven корветов, trawlers, submarines,
mine trawlers!
        “Volodya, where are you going? Come with us on the cargo ship!” The diplomats
waved a can of stewed meat from the deck of the Soviet vessel.
        “They sent me to the English on a mine trawler.”
        “They sent you too far! Sail with us!”
        “I have orders.”
        “We’ll arrange it now. Our captain - is a good guy!”
        Vladimir climbs up on the deck of the trawler Lord Middleton without any
pleasure. He knows almost no English. Who could he talk to? Its OK for the diplomats -
they were put with “ours”, but Katya Varennikova, a really young pregnant woman,
who’s sailing to her husband, working in London, - is on the English cargo ship. As
always, Russians love to change places, transfer. Before departure the future mother
asked my father in tears to take her with him:
        “Volodya, I’m afraid among strangers.”
         No one noticed that they succeeded in becoming closely acquainted, living in the
hotel.
          “It’s good that there’s no God,” - Katya continued. “If I had to die, I wouldn’t
have to burn in hell.”
         “Why in hell?”
         Katya shrugged her shoulders. My father made efforts on her behalf, but
unsuccessfully.
         “My Brits are sour” - he told his pregnant beauty at port. “The caravan’s
departure is set for the thirtieth. Besides that, the presence of wo men on a military ship -
you know yourself - is a bad omen.”
         The Scots, the majority of the crew on the trawler, having declined the woman,
met my father affably. The captain with teeth, brown from tobacco, gave orders.
         CAPTAIN: Give him a yellow naval robe with a hood, warm underwear, boots
and his own weapon - a Mauser!
         This is what the right clothes means! For the first time in his life my father looked
like a real man - he isn’t afraid in his yellow robe with the Mauser.
         The QP-14 caravan didn’t get out into the White Sea before the German
reconnaissance aircraft got them in sight. And - it began! The convoy set a huge
defensive fire against the Germans. But the Germans - are experienced bastards! The
course - Spitsbergen. The sky is teeming with airplanes. The war moves inside
Vladimir’s head, which is the goal of the endless attacks of the large detachments of He-
177 torpedo planes and the Junker-88 dive-bombers.
         At the rear of the trawler my father saw fires burning in the sea.
         GOD: War, like any other creative game, - is obvious proof of my existence.
         People with screaming, wild voices are drowning in the icy water and lakes of
fuel oil. No one will help them: the caravan has an order to go full speed ahead away
from the enemy, not stopping to save the dying. German aviation pushes the caravan to
the edge of the packed ice at New Land, but reaches it even there, although, due to
economizing oil, cannot hang over the enemy for long.
         Vladimir gradually gets used to life under the bombs. His natural curios ity doesn’t
dose off. Tell me, Captain!
         “Before the war Lord Middleton was a whale-killing ship. Whales, in reality, are
those Germans, in a word: milk-drinkers. My command - is 52 men. Look at what we
have: two weapons - bow and aft, two large-caliber machine guns on the captain’s bridge,
and also a device for launching long-range bombs. Good news: Katya gave birth.”
         “Really?”
         “This morning. We’ll drink champagne in Iceland. German aircraft are not really
hunting us, although we have to maneuver endlessly. Believe me, as soon as we get to
Spitsbergen in the Atlantic, it’ll be easier.”
         Vladimir has to admit that the saying “as if looking in the water” doesn’t work in
this case. The passage between Spitsbergen and Norway proved to be the most
dangerous. The aircraft didn’t let up. It would have definitely destroyed the entire
caravan, but Arctic clouds began. The caravan was covered with a sheet. The German
aircraft still didn’t have radar. The main German ships didn’t get out to sea. Hitler
decided not to put the fleet at risk.
         However, in the region of Medvezhy Island, Germain aviation immediately
succeeded in sinking a few ships. Both happy card-playing diplomats burned alive. They
didn’t want to stay on the burning cargo ship with the bags of long-outdated mail. Katya
Varennikova and her daughter, whom the English sailors, because of her birth at sea,
named Marina drowned that same day.
         The caravan met submarines with swastikas in the Atlantic. They insolently came
up to the caravan above the water, then immersed, began firing torpedoes on it from
different directions. The strong blast waves threw my father, standing, as always, on the
captain’s bridge, back against the railings. Papa, don’t drown! The destroyer Somali, the
new English beauty, only just put in the water was struck in the immediate vicinity of the
trawler. Torpedoes hit the engine room.
         The destroyer listed, but didn’t sink. Two other destroyers and my father’s
trawler, as an aide vessel, were given orders to ensure the transport of the damaged ship
to Iceland. On board the Somali the command returned with lifeboats. The rest of the
caravan continued on course. Several days later, during a storm at night, Somali broke in
half. It quickly sank to the bottom with all on board. Sailors threw huge nets into the
ocean. Caught: fifteen (from six hundred) people blackened from the cold and a lot of
fish. Rum - in the throat, grinding with alcohol, heaters with boiling water. Two survived.
Having been freed from the task, the destroyers rushed forward to catch up to the
caravan. The trawler remained alone in the ocean.

                                           
Silence. Sun. Weeping polar nights (already not their season, but we’ll leave them for
beauty). The weather is good for sailing. It seemed to my father sometimes, that he, a
grown young man, is on a sea stroll during a vacation. The ghosts of love are born in the
blue distance. The clouds are like wedding feather-beds. It’s a shame only that there is no
one next to my father whom he’d like to embrace. In the morning he saw strange smoke
beyond the aft of the ship. The signal of the battle alarm: “surface ships of the enemy”.
         “Full forward!” The sea-wolf screams into the megaphone.
         However, he was able to compete in speed with three unknown destroyers. The
one in the front gives the volley from the onboard weapons into air, requiring the trawler
to stop.
         “Fuck you!! - the captain groans, winking at my father. - “Spread out, prepare for
battle!” - he screams into the megaphone.
         The trawler prepares all its live weapons. My father squeezes the handle of the
Mauser in his pocket. But he forgot where he put the bullets. He runs to his cabin, finds
them under his pillow, - bullets - back to the Captain’s bridge. (I have the inherited
inability to use technology, although I amazed everyone in childhood with great shooting
in a shooting gallery.) A painful pause comes. My father knows that the Germans won’t
get him alive. The destroyers, noisily cutting through the water, are getting close,
growing to the sky over the trawler. My father threw his head back. And suddenly
screams:
         “Yankee! Yankee!”
         The destroyers came as close as possible. Having crowded on the deck, sailors
from Oklahoma, Minnesota, Mississippi and Alabama, white and black, our own, up to
tears, the dear Yankees threw bags with heraldic eagles on the deck of the trawler.
Preserves, cans of beer - everything that my father and the Scots were deprived of for so
long. There was a sumptuous feast on the trawler. Everyone felt themselves to be heroes,
walking along drunk, screaming to my father:
         “Stalingrad! Stalingrad!”
         STALIN: “Isn’t it too early?”
         In the evening my father, horribly confused, teaches the command in other, not
less strong words of the Russian language.

                                             
         The Soviet Odysseus enters the coast of his first foreign country. He turns the
globe with his feet. It’s pleasant to feel the firm soil, to quietly pass along the streets of
Reykjavik. There isn’t darkening in Iceland: the brightly painted houses illum inated by
electric lights in the evenings. Vladimir admires the girls who have a reputation of being
the most beautiful in Western Europe.
         Iceland always attracted Russians by its extraordinariness. It wasn’t by accident
that Dostoyevsky’s most demonic hero, the handsome Stavrogin, who, by the way, didn’t
say anything about it, since the imaginary country doesn’t need tourist impressions, was
there.
         By a strange circumstance, if not to say the provocatorial irony of fate, was that I
was in Iceland at the same age that my father was, at twenty-two, although, as opposed to
him, I never reached there. My Iceland lived on the sixth floor. On Peace Prospect, near
the Riga Train Station, in the diplomatic house, the courtyard of which guarded the
Soviet millionaire. I had to gather all my antisovietness and antirussianness, in order to
independently go into the courtyard in my unbuttoned red coat with virgin white fur
lining, without causing suspicion. This was a check not only of my foreignness, but also
my impudence, for which I could seriously pay for those times. More so, this was my
first dissident break from the orbit of the Soviet world, the experience was so strong and
endless, that it finally beat me out of the Russian literary track. If I only started to write,
endless doubt in myself, in me, not believing, obstinately having a presentiment, I
experienced my Iceland like an entrance into a novel, like a transformation of my life in
divine text.
         When subsequently I often ruined this text, I returned in thought to Iceland, just
like toward its source, concept, unattainable model. Iceland became the country of my
fall into sin, my completely illegal, forbidden love. My Iceland was a couple years older
than me, worked as a diplomat in the tiny embassy of the NATO countries, on the
quietest alley, near Vorovsky Street, and I was still in fifth grade, only just happily
married, a youth expecting a young wife, having been stuck in my eastern-European
country because of visa delays. And here November 7 in the company of intoxicated
friends, having hung out by the movies, brings Iceland to the apartment of my absent
parents, and Iceland and I stand on the unsteady small balcony of my parent’s bedroom,
looking out onto the courtyard and watch the Soviet fireworks and she watches it with
such joy, with such genuine happiness, that I understand: these fireworks of happiness is
in our honor. And, as it is only in youth, all gradually goes somewhere, fails
rhythmically, misses, dissolves in air as though it has been predetermined in advance, that
there won’t be any delays, that we’ll remain together, head-over- heels in love, connected
by everything and eternally, almost mute due to the lack of English words. If there is a
matrix of earthly love, if there is a matrix of earthly bliss, then at that holiday of the
revolution, it materialized on the carpet of my parents’ living room. We lost our heads.
Love demands simple kitchy words, it doesn’t need ente rtaining ornamentalism, leading
toward petty-bourgeois romance. Its description - a parody on literature - if it’s indeed
love. We began to live so mutely, not trusting English words, in her apartment on Peace
Prospect, in the full unlawfulness of our love, in a mute fairytale, on the periphery of
which hostile forces roared. Her slow movement, when she pours tea, the unearthly turn
of her head, when she looks back at me on the boulevard, Gorky’s autobiographical novel
in Icelandic in her thin aristocratic hands, her blue couch, on which I put inhuman records
of passion, so as never to repeat them, and, so as, perhaps, the most important, never to
be jealous of anyone. And these words “elska min”, which remained in me forever, and
her open white legs - the hell with Stravrogin, the hell with my father’s military passions.
        I go down into the Rizhskaya subway station, I’m twenty-two, its already late, I
have to get home, I look at the phantoms of the passengers, running late, on the escalator
- I know that no one will ever be as happy as I am. She tells me that in Iceland there are
folk songs, but no folk dances. There are everywhere else, but not in Iceland, just as there
aren’t last names. There are only patronymics, cast off in life. We didn’t have to make
sure of the hot geisers - there were enough sperm. She has scars on her finger and I - on
my left pointer finger. This was from when I cleaned radishes in the seventh grade with a
long knife with a wooden handle. In the kitchen. Blood. Scars on my fingers. We are -
marked. But she has, she says, this phalanx of her finger was cut off altogether - totally,
and then she quickly put it back in place - and it gre w again. How did it grow again?
Such a thing can’t be. It can’t be on your finger or on your whole body, it just doesn’t
happen.
        I look at the unearthly turn of her head, her beautiful black head, at her eyes -
hardly damp from excitement - this Moscow wintry boulevard - we have to make a
decision - she’s pregnant, - and I simply cant believe my luck.
        “Ауста!” - I think… “A Captain’s daughter! How did you live your life? Where
are you? Whom are you with? How many children do you have? You probably already
have grandsons. How are your two sisters? What’s new with them? And what became of
us?

                                            
        In Iceland, bringing myself back to my senses, Lord Middleton takes a course to
the British islands. And again it hung over father - well how much can one take! - deathly
danger. Late in the evening when the crew is already preparing for bed, the alarm signal:
        “An enemy submarine!”
        Father jumps off his cot, quickly flies up the metal stairs on deck. As an
experienced sailor, he listens to the rhythm of the waves, rolling past it. Having seized the
moment, he pushes the heavy door. Up the gangway on the captain’s bridge - twenty feet.
He already ran the majority of the way, when he hears the captain’s scream. He curses
father with a megaphone: Vladimir didn’t slam the door of the hold. From there a bright
projector beats light all around - an excellent target for the Germans!
        Father turned around on the fly. A heavy wave washes over him, knocking him
down, but he manages to catch the handle of the door - he hangs on - dangles, like a
clown - the next wave kicks him inside. Drenched, teeth chattering from cold and nervo us
shock, he regardless repeats his attempt. This time he succeeds in running to the stairs on
the captain’s bridge. On the crooked surfaces of the ocean, he sees a flickering greenish
light. The trawler carefully approaches it. The Scotsmen hold an unidentified object
under the aim of their weapons. Now a naval duel begins. Father clenched his teeth. He
doesn’t know how to pray.
        Such was his surprise when, having approached the riddle of fire, the sailors
reveal а drifting log, which fluoresces by malachite light! The log split into chips when
bullets hit it. The crew laughed for a long time at the watch, which raised alarm due to the
log, wandering at night through the ocean.

                                            
         They polished the deck, buffed the handrails until they shone. And that’s how
they sailed in. The authorities of Endinburgh, having considered Lord Middleton lost,
organized a reception for the crew. A military orchestra, inflating the furs of bagpipes,
filled the wind with brilliant marches. The honor guard of tall Scotsmen in plaid kilts and
colorful tartans stood in front of the town hall. The sailors waited for their lunch in this
building: they ate Scottish giblets. It was somewhat grayish-brown. “Similar to shit” - my
father laughed, putting his haggis, with his first diplomatic smile on the plate. But when
he tried it, he said to himself, without any diplomacy “it would have been better if it was
shit!” Vladimir’s stomach hurt. It was the first time father appeared before such a lar ge
foreign auditorium. He looked horrible in the shabby field shirt. No one paid any
attention to this. All of Edinburgh stared at the Soviet man alive, having arrived from
warring Russia.
         “Where are you going? We have to go back to sea again. Come with us?”
         Vladimir left the compartment of the old- fashioned sleeping car. The captain and
seven sailors escorted him to the train station. They drank a lot of whisky. Father kissed
the crew; he waved from the window for a long time. Pastel from whisky, woody
mountains passed. At noon he stood in the corridor in front of the window - this became
his railway custom. He arrived in London late in the evening.
         Blue lamps dimly lit the platform. No one met him. Vladimir caught a black cab.
Having climbed up on the porch of 13 Kensington Palace Garden, he rang the doorbell.
The old heavy door was opened. My father introduced himself. He was let in. A young
diplomat, on duty that night, was gladdened by the unexpected co-conversationalist. They
started drinking tea.
         “Do you believe in unlucky thirteen?”
         “What’s the matter with it?”
         “The embassy building was bought for an acceptable price because of the address.
The neighboring mansions since then were either destroyed or seriously suffered from
bombing, except for the embassy, not valued at all.
         “And what, they bomb heavily?”
         Another colleague came in, yawning.
         “Did you see the cat?”
         “What cat?”
         “The cat disappeared.”
         Father took the lost cat to the nearby hotel.
         “Fascists! I am used to cats. My wife stayed in Moscow.”
         “We’ll find it,” - father said.
         He was always an optimist. Having felt pleasantly warm from the big hot-water
bottle, he put his feet under the sheets; fell asleep immediately. Father could sleep
anywhere, in any situation, at that time. He had such a deep sleep that even pistol shots
near his ears couldn’t wake him up. Vladimir, however, woke up late at night. It was dark
outside. The blanket lay on him just like a sack of sand. Father thought that the ceiling
fell. Endeavoring to get up, he heard how splinters of glass fell on the floor with a noise.
Wind filled the room. Not a trace remained from the frames and shutter. A contact mine
fell, apparently not far away. Having decided that tomorrow is a new day, father again
fell asleep.
         The German pilots fought well. Hitler - a thunder-storm of the heavens. His
aircraft were complete rulers of the skies over London. In the morning the dank air was
bitter from smoke, like in Archangelsk, but father didn’t notice despair on the tired faces
of the London residents. The people looked at those gathered, concentrated. The movie
theaters were open. In the big department store, where the embassy staff took father the
next day, quick salespeople dressed father in civilian clothes in less than half an hour,
accurately having wrapped the Soviet field shirt in a package. Although no one paid any
attention to him on the street, father felt embarrassed in his narrow pants and hat, which
adorned his head for the first time.
         “You didn’t swim with Katya Varennikova?” - the embassy staff unexpectedly
asked.
         “She drowned,” - father said. “Together with her daughter.”
         The staff members laughed.
         “What are you laughing about?”
         “Do you know who she was?”
         “Who?
         A new bout of laughter was heard. Vladimir stopped asking.
         “I found the cat,” - said the acquainted embassy staff member.
         “See,” - father smiled.
         Father could quickly come together with people, but he never laughed once in his
life. Sweden wasn’t closer than victory. The Americans took it upon themselves to
transfer my father there. They drank coffee and went out to the landing area
         “Well, let’s go,” - said the military pilots, offering father a Chesterfield. In the
evening three heavy bombers stood in the landing area.
         “Wonderful machines!” - said father. “Why don’t you open a second front?”
         The Americans smiled.
         “Ask Churchill! A large black man stuck out his pink tongue with lazy contempt.
“He’s scared of the Germans.”
          They were always proud of their technology. Technology - the soul of the West.
To fly to Sweden it was necessary to go through Norway, occupied by the Germans.
         “The pie was shit!” - the Americans attested to father. It’s a narrow strip we’ll
cross at night, in gliding flight with the engines turned off.
        “This is quick and not horrible - winked the black man, - “like ripping teeth out.”
        That night, over Norway, the Germans revealed themselves to the American
bombers, pursued them - brought one down, with the big black man, already in Swedish
airspace, which was dishonest in every respect. One out of three - more abruptly than
Russian roulette. Safely having overslept the air fight, my papa, the ingenuous Odysseus,
landed in the region of Stockholm, in the beginning of November 1942, on the eve of the
25th anniversary of the October Revolution, having lead the way in total of about two
months.

                                            
        The writer - is the antipode of the diplomat. I’m beginning to catch myself in the
thought, that, spying on the approach of a young man toward that moment, when he
becomes my father, I unwillingly fall into a half- ironic tone and try to explain this to
myself internally. It’s possible that I became disenchanted with diplomacy, which in the
best case scenario, is nothing more than the bright subordination of personality to the
interests of the state. It’s possible, historical experience, accumulated until today,
transforms my father’s behavior, in turn, at least, ingenuous (ingenuous Odysseus) acts,
and I cannot react to this without a certain arrogance. Most likely, the talk, regardless, is
about the incompatibility of the roles of father and son.
        Children, no matter how they were, turn our lives into a trap. Walking along the
street a beautiful upperclassman (today I saw this near the house on Plyushchiha),
smelling of the correct perfume, suddenly begins to run from a young man with glasses,
with laughter turns to him and says lovingly:
        “I’m scared of you.”
        From her parent’s point of view, this love - is treachery. And she herself - a young
whore. It wasn’t for nothing that in traditional societies parents chose fiancés and brides
for their children: we - the owners of children, because we are their parents, these - are
goods which only we can sell, and they will never agree with this.
        Children change us with their entire behavior: fashion, dances, customs, language,
which serves as making fun of us. We have children for our continuation in life - children
scream, don’t let us sleep, shit in their pampers, get sick. We leave to meat them at the
metro at night, so as not to offend them and they embarrass us. When I went to the
graduation at school on Gorky Street on the side of Pushkin Square, I was embarrassed,
that mama, (still young and well-dressed) goes together with me. At of the Museum of
the Revolution, which once was the Museum of Gifts to Stalin, I even tried to separate
from her, go independently, but she didn’t understand anything that was going on with
me, muttered: “Why are you hurrying like that?”, thinking, probably that I’m worried.
        We for children - are a buffer against death. They for us - are not only the
continuance of our kind, but the promise of our own personal eternity, perhaps, not as
distinct as religious eternity, but, regardless, eternity. If death is considered the highest
criterion of reliability, then we are clearly not in an equal position. The death of a child
kills the parents, this attempt at their immortality. The death of parents - only a private
tragedy of a person.
        Parents are more important than literature. Describing them, the style of the writer
begins to vibrate. The writer tries in vain to make an impression into образ. But children
are frequently more important than life. When, returning from a stroll along Red Army
Square, I crossed the street with a fashionable denim carriage, where my small son Oleg
slept, I understood that if the situation arises: either him or me, that I shall make myself
the victim, having been hit by a car. The self-sacrifice opened without a scratch, like a
door. In it there wasn’t even any kind of magnanimity.
         We, however are crafty before fate. We choose our children in connection with
our affinity to them, and accidental, illegal children we often throw them away forever -
they are unsuitable for our eternity.
         On a wintry morning, returning to Moscow from the dacha, where I’m writing
this book, I see a crowd of people almost invisible in the morning gloom, standing at the
bus stops at the Pavlov settlement, not having slept, охреневших - they’re going to the
city to work on their children. It seems to me that they all work in chemical factories. The
parent’s smile upon leaving the maternity hospital - an oversight for which they must
pay. Children don’t notice our efforts - we are proposed to live with this blatancy. The
splash of love at the table on one’s birthday reminds one of the electric lighting of а
burnt-out lamp. Parental tenderness -“sonny!” - тупиковы, their eroticism is hopeless.
There goes a great объебаловка, in which we play a passive role of the continuance of
mankind, which ceased to realize itself a long time ago. Needlessness - the final formula
of the parental senile оставленности. We won’t be bought with the inheritance, even if
this did happen. The chairs, thrown in the garbage heap - this is all that’s left after us.
         Children are inhuman. We are enveloped by lifelong fear for them and by absurd
pride which bursts open in our stories about them, that looks always laughable from
outside. It’s unpleasant, if children grow up dull, ugly, but too smart and successful
children drive us into complexes and become judges of our failures. Parents hide the
shortcomings of their children; children easily provoke conversations about their parent’s
shortcomings. There are, of course cases of admiration. Nabokov idolized his father and
therefore partly hated Freud. But his ideal father - cerebral construction, at ease with
literature, but not for life. We dramatize every trifle happening with the children; they
make our dramas banal, if they even notice them at all. Parents already did the most
important thing of their lives - they gave birth to us. Everything else - is insignificant.
                                                
                                            
                                             
        My diplomacy teacher was Alexandra Mikhailovna Kollontai, - father talked
about her many times with lawful pride.
        In 1942 Sweden preserved its neutrality. Goebel propaganda was widely
propagated. On the central street of Kungsgatan hung a huge mirror show-window of the
German Information Bureau, in it was put photos from the Eastern Front, having glorified
the great victories of the Arian soldiers. The Germans won with smiles. The window was
often broken by Norwegian students. The Germans had to put in new glass, which again
was broken. In response the Fascists broke the windows of the Soviet Information Bureau
in Railroad Square, to which the sharp-toothed Vasily Terkin laughed (laughter is
stronger than a smile), but the window was made of normal windo w glass, it was simpler
to restore it.
        It’s a strange thing - diplomacy. The continuance of the war by peaceful means?
How lustrously Kollontai led discussions about Finland’s withdrawal from the war!
Knowing about the close ties of Marcus Vallenberg with the Finnish President Ryuti, she
accurately, but persistently suggested to him the idea of the necessity to show influence
on the Finns, such that they immediately stopped the war with the Soviet Union.
Vallenberg heeded her, left Helsinki - Alexandra Mikhailovna sends a telegram to
Moscow to strengthen the bombing of the Finnish capitol during that time.
         “She was a master at using her own ties in the state interests of the Soviet Union,”
- father emphasized in a family conversation with me.
         “The Swedes,” - Kollontai explained to the staff of the consulate, having crowded
around her wheelchair, “with the exception of the clearly Fascist group don’t feed on
sympathy… what are you doing Petrov?”
         “Nothing.”
         “Exactly…So, Petrov do you know that Swedes don’t feed on sympathy toward
the Hitler regime and don’t want to experience it themselves.”
         My father often was in attendance in her room when Alexandra Mikhailovna
reported to the Swedish ministers reasons for the withdrawal from neutrality.
         “What are you talking about, friends!”
         “Excuse us, comrade!” - the cabinet ministers blushed.
         From delight, which he experienced toward Kollontai, papa once told me, that she
developed, in the very heat of war, a statue of the Karl XII, pointing to Russia, like an
enemy, in the direction of the Germans. The story wasn’t confirmed, having gotten into
my soul. The embassy rested on the strong anti-war feeling of the Swedish people.
Vladimir worked as an aide to the ambassador for almost the entire war. At first, upon
arrival, he lived in a hotel. At night a phenomenon woke him: a girl appeared in his room,
on her head was a crown with hot candles. My father rubbed his eyes: a dream?
Provocation? A long abstention? The girl went up to the bed, with a smile gave the tray
with a cup of coffee and cookies. My father propped himself up on the pillow, drank the
coffee, ate the cookies with a crunch. Continuing to smile, the girl left, having closed the
door. On the walls of the embassy hall, where they served lunches and receptions took
place, large plates hung, gifts to Kollontai from workers of the Leningrad porcelain
factory with the inscription “The one who doesn’t work, doesn’t eat!” and “The reign of
workers and peasants won’t end!”
         Kollontai involved my father in the evenings with work on her memoirs. In the
heat of the war, in the blossoming of Stalinism, she wrote them in French for Mexican
publishers. In her room was a metal trunk. The long, old fingers having adjusted to it a
wheelchair, she lifted the heavy lid with my father’s help, on the underside were labels
with tsarist coats-of arms. She put her hand deep into the needed archeological layer -
took letters of Lenin, Martov, Rosa Luxemburg. Looking at photos of Plehanov with
nominal dedications, she admitted:
         “Closeness to him kept me from moving toward the Bolsheviks for a long time.”
         Kollontai became a member of Lenin’s first government, but was against the
Brest Peace and with her friend Shlyapnikov, created the Liberal Workers Opposition,
after the rout from which she left the government. Sometimes Alexandra Mikhailovna,
having leaned back in the wheelchair, confidently told my father about herself. She said
that she lived several different lives, connected to each other by a basic trait of her
character - mutiny.
         KOLLONTAI: I was the young lady of Petersburg society, and my noble heritage
helps me in Sweden. The conservative Swedes, crazy for aristocratism, excused my
bolshevism, and the fact that I am a Soviet envoy, due to my noble past.
         At some point, a long time ago, in September 1914, the Swedish Minister of
Internal Affairs was instructed to arrest Kollontai for propaganda of the revolution. King
Gustav V signed an edict for her eternal exile from the country. With sly luster in big
blue eyes, raising her thick brows and shaking her bangs, Kollontai told my father, how
Gustav V felt uncomfortable, when, in 1930, he had to accept her as the plenipotentiary
representative, of the Soviet Union to Sweden, with credentials. The king secretly
annulled his old edict. Ivan Petrovich continued to work on the railroad. My father’s
parents spent the entire blockade in Petersburg. he plodded to the October Train Station
daily from the suburb prospect, after replacing the pants which became too wide with the
Komsomol pants of her son. On the fast train, carrying my father to southern Sweden, he
met a blonde girl. Before leaving the station she put on an SS uniform. A horrible
artillery explosion was heard. In the open window the sheared off head of her neighbor
flew toward grandmother. She didn’t know what to do in such cases. Give the head back
to her neighbor’s husband? Call the militia? Carry it out into the courtyard?
         “How did you manage this, Nina Vasiliyevna?”
         Grandmother had friendly relations with her neighbor: she had just finished
altering her dress. The neighbor promised to pay for the work. Occupied with Communist
sex - regardless something to drink - a glass of water? A fundamental opponent of marital
relations, Kollontai considered that the family brings up and asserts egoism, which
hampers the building of Communism. Regardless, she married Dybenko.
         KOLLONTAI: I was older than Pavel by 17 years, but it didn’t bother me. We are
young while we’re loved. But being the wife of a division commander began to burden
me, and him - the husband of the plenipotentiary. Yes even love passed.
         Kollontai was not only a Bolshevik, but a sexual revolutionary - the legendary
Silver century, lover of chocolate candy, bisexual defender of free love, “working arms.”
Lenin shook at Kollontai’s theories. My father also didn’t become her clear proselyte. On
Bloody Sunday in 1905, Kollontai went to the Winter Palace, shots were heard, she ran -
many years later my father found her already paralyzed in a wheelchair. Kollontai didn’t
drink her “glass” for a long time and sublimated into the great politician. When Ivan
Petrovich returned, the spouses advised one another. Almost all their neighbors had died
from hunger. Grandmother sewed - this saved her from hunger. It was necessary to
transport the corpses on sleighs to Boris Erisman’s medical institute. The rustle of the
corpse’s hair from the wind and frost got into the head. Petrov came over. Petrov, the
aide to the resident on supervision over collective of Soviet colonies, told my father:
         “You don’t see that she’s not ours, she surrounded herself with suspicious people,
the maid - Swede, the chauffeur - also Swedish.”
         My father had to cooperate with Petrov.
         “You’ll be sorry, but it’ll be late,” - Petrov said.
         He still repeatedly pressed my father.
         I’ll report this to Kollontai,” - my father said.
         Petrov cursed my father with the following words. Later Petrov worked in
Australia and ran off with the embassy cashbox. Several of the young single men
sustained lengthy stays abroad. Arkady, my father’s friend, after numerous requests to
send him a replacement, sent Moscow an anonymous denunciation of himself. In it was
described in detail how he drinks, how he meets prostitutes at night in the parks, (with
names of drinks, names of bars and parks, names of prostitutes). They called him back
immediately. Suddenly in the beginning of August, 1944 a telegram arrived: send my
father on business to Moscow. Kollontai was very perturbed. She responded to Moscow
with a refusal. She was already used to my father. Moreover, she was attached to him.
Men don’t understand that women- invalids are still women, regardless. During the
Swedish nights, during breaks of daily games with the Finns to get out of the war, she
spoke French.
        “And how does one say “connection” in French?”
        “Liaison”.
        “How, how?”
        My father - is a fool. Moscow sent a second telegram. Kollotai again - refused.
Then a telegram came from Moscow with Molotov’s signature. Here Kollontai gave up.
        “I don’t understand anything, but you have to go.”
        The dark-browed advisor Ilya Chernyshev - whose spacious Moscow apartment
my parents visited after he, many years later, drowned the Soviet Ambassador to Brazil,
and his aide rushed to save him, a shark bit his head off, and although the aide’s mother
didn’t know about the misfortune, she dreamed: her son sits fishing - without a head - the
advisor Chernyshev half-joking/half seriously asked my father:
        “What did you do that made them so categorically withdraw you?”
        My father kept quiet. He didn’t know what to say.

                                           
                                            
       “Did you think that they’d arrest you when you’d return to Moscow?”
        “For what?”
        “For nothing. Why did you take so long going back?”
        “The war.” - my father grinned.
        The freedom of Europe developed in all its beauty in front of my father. He
continued to play the role of Soviet Candide. He flew from Sweden at the end of August
1944 on an English military-transport plane “Douglas”. Having flown safely over
Norway, the plane crossed the North Sea, but on the approach to Scotland - again twenty-
five! - a German fighter shot at him. The right wing caught fire. The pilot tried,
maneuvering, to put out the flames, but unsuccessfully. The cabin filled with smoke. The
rubber tank with fuel hung down over the passenger’s heads the entire length of the
ceiling. Many military airports were along the Scottish coast, and the pilot went to land.
Just as the plane touched down, my father, together with the other passengers jumped up
and ran as fast as they could, so as to hide in the hangаr not far away.
        I see how my father runs, holding his hat on his head, and suddenly realize, that
he’s not afraid for his life: he has the charter of immunity consisting of an almost boyish
levity, passion and indifference to danger. The suitcase also escaped: Firemen
immediately went up to the burning airplane. They put out the flames with sand and
foam, and my father’s Swedish suits lived in the saved dark-brown Swedish suitcase with
the solid silvery fasteners by an infinite aimless life with naphthalene in grandmother’s
apartment until her death. Anastasia Nikandrovna’s skin remained девичьей,
consciousness - not clouded until the end, despite the fatal illness: inflammation of the
spinal cord. She held down her paralysis with a belt and had already reached her lungs,
but grandmother won her Stalingrad battle, having flung this misfortune away from her,
and for fifteen years she (with the complaint of constant burning in her feet) became the
living exhibit of a miracle for the future physicians. It’s strange that I don’t have time to
be proud of my grandmother. She died at 96 in a reanimation of the Kuntsevsky Hospital.
At the silent requiem in a local ritual hall the family waited for my father’s decision.
Esthetics before everything. He went into the adjoining room, glanced at the co ffin -
grandmother looked like a beauty. He shook his head: show it to the family. We began to
say goodbye, with an even set of flowers. At the Vaganovsky Cemetery, not having seen
her for the last ten years, crossed the old woman, saying goodbye forever.
         A new test awaited my father in London: the ballistic missiles of the FAU-2. They
flew to the city at a high altitude with supersonic speed and fell such that first the sound
of a colossal explosion was heard and only after it - the drilling air whistle. The Germans
didn’t report the new weapons to the English, and in the beginning no one could
understand what was falling on their heads. Everyone lived under the threat of unclear
and unexpected death. According to the arrangements with the Americans, my fa ther
went to the US military-air base in South Whales. From there he was to be sent to
Casablanca, then to Cairo, and from there to Moscow. The gallant American pilots flew
tipsy. The second front was open, despite Churchill’s brakes. All the worst, it seemed,
was already past. On an early fall morning they put my father in a heavy bomber, familiar
to him from his flight to Sweden. Having situated himself in the metal seat, my father,
having covered himself with a blanket, dozed off: the flight to Morocco was more than
six hours. He slept - suddenly felt the plane landed. My father went up to the navigator
with the question of what happened.
         “The order was given to land in France.”
         My father looked through the porthole. Everywhere the traces of furious battles
were visible. The airplane was in the big burnt-out Norman city of Cannes. The American
command in France was surprised, having seen my Soviet father. Instead of flying
further, they offered him to go with the officers in a jeep through all of France to Toulon.
Vladimir went, bouncing on army springs. What luck? The realization of the impossible.
The account was open. Eyes widened. France was beautiful even in its exposed
collaborationalism. Along the road were platens, just touched with yellowness. At the
intersections palms stuck out. In Toulon the Inland Sea opened up. It lain gold, not like
the Swedish herring Baltic. The houses - yellow, with southern shutters, the cafes - noisy.
Everyone who strolled were happy in the streets. The French partisans, wrapped in
cartridge belts, grenades and automatic weapons, embraced girls, curly- haired, similar to
the Italians. The curly- haired girls twisted under the kisses. My father immediately went
to the movies. They showed chronicles seized by the Germans. It was stuffy in the hall;
they smoked, made noise. Hitler appeared on screen and raised his hand - the screen was
shot by automatic weapons. The audience approvingly began to buzz.
         From Toulon, the Americans took my father to Rome. Instead of returning to
Moscow, my father began his Italian vacation. He didn’t find the Soviet military mission
in Rome, having left for Northern Italy, and the Americans took him to Naples, returned
him to the English base. The English related to Vladimir with suspicion, but allowed him,
while waiting for the next plane, to live in a tarpaulin tent right in the airport. The
misfortune, however, was that the English didn’t feed my father, and the money he had
was only for five boxes of matches. My father wandered along the road to Vesuvius in
this gloomy mood and got lost. A young Italian came to meet him. Having found out that
my father is Russian, he enthusiastically invited him to his communist cell. Vladimir
gracefully refused, but the next day a cheerful band of sunburnt communists came to his
tent and began to squeeze my father in their embraces. They brought with them a whole
bag of edibles, red wine, cigarettes. My father began to live very well. The English
decided to get rid of the suspicious type. They put him in an airplane, having flown to
Cairo. But the airplane didn’t reach Egypt. He landed in the decrepit airport of Bari. The
Germans tirelessly bombed the city: Greek allies landed from Bari. My father again lived
in a tent, but, they bombed so much, that he spent a lot of time in ditches and cracks.
Vladimir got so dirty he was unrecognizable, he didn’t succeed in showering. At dawn
two English soldiers rushed into the tent, forced him out, grabbed his dark-brown
Swedish suitcase (a wonderful thing, one has to admit) and ran toward the plane flying to
Egypt. My father jumped up, got dressed, ran, but saw only the tail of the plane gaining
height. His suitcase flew away with it. A few days later he found it in Egypt, where he
looked around Cairo and visited the pyramids. An old Arab carried on camelback and
sold an old signet with the inscription “All pass”. Everything else went like clockwork.
My father flew to Iran. At the Soviet embassy, in an abandoned park, he saw the hall,
where, the conference of the heads of the three Allied powers took place a year earlier.
My father arrived in Moscow in the beginning of November, 1944 from Teheran. It
already smelled of victory there. It appeared that Molotov immediately required a
reviewer with a command of French - my father was his choice.

                                           
                                            
        Vyachislav Mikhailovich had the habit of lying down for a half- hour during the
course of the day. There were always flowers, a dish of fruit and Greek nuts which
Vyachislav Mikhailovich adored, on the circular table in the room for rest, near the
office. He was the second person in the government. Cities, cars and collective farms
were named after him, his likeness hung on streets and in museums. He played the violin
in restaurants during his youth. He never laughed, and if he smiled, it was forced.
Molotov wore a suit and tie, earthen complexion, a large forehead with deep, high
temples, rimless eye-glasses on his large porous nose, bristly, but a diligently trimmed,
short moustache.
        My father didn’t find either the rostrum or the ardent revolutionary in him.
Molotov patiently listened to his positive opinion of Kollontai, not interrupting and not
supporting his future colleague. Kollontai also didn’t favor Molotov too much, not having
played the last role in his life: managing the female department of the Central Committee,
which was under Molotov, she introduced him to his future wife, Paulina Semyonovna
Zhemchuzhina.
        During the first months of work with Molotov, my father couldn’t escape the
feeling that they’d expel him right away, and if they didn’t it was only because they
hadn’t yet found a replacement. Molotov didn’t slam his fist down on the table, like
Kaganovich, whose aides died of heart attacks, but used insulting nicknames, like “hat”
or “aunt”. Molotov ordered my father to change his signature such that his whole
surname was entirely visible, just as his own was. Unexpectedly having returned earlier
from Stalin, to whom he went every evening, he found my father playing chess with
Podtserob’s senior aide, who was a candidate for masters.
       “I also played chess in the past,” - having glanced at the players, Molotov said. -
“When I was in prison, in the dark cell, where reading was impossible and there wasn’t
absolutely anything to do.”

                                           
                                            
         The mood was already чемоданное. Two days later, my father flew for an
unspecified time to Paris, for a peace conference. On July 26 th , 1946 he stopped at his
office window at the People's Commissariat of Foreign Affairs.
         We have in the family our short course of the Communist Party: the official
history of parental relations. They met in 1937 at the philological faculty of Leningrad
University. The short course acknowledged that the matter was limited to acquaintance.
In passing, it was announced that everyone had their own hobby.
         Corresponding to the short course, my future parents moved to Moscow for
translator’s courses. There they also met, but not moreso. Then they separated for the
whole war. Mama left for Central Asia, to Fergana, during the evacuation. She began
another love. They didn’t write one another.
         Then in the short course in my family becomes unexpectedly powerful - nothing
predetermined - the moment of enlightenment. On July 26th , 1946 he stood at the window
of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (then it was still the People’s Co mmissariat) and saw
mama, walking along Kuznetsky Bridge. He suddenly understood that she - was his fate.
He ran out onto the street and proposed. The proposal was accepted. They ran to the
Registry O ffice. Papa had to fly somewhere immediately, either to San Francisco or to
Paris. It was better not to prolong it. The wedding was modest.
         In this story, everything was alright, except, as mama said one time (during their
wedding anniversary), that the window of the Ministry didn’t look out over Kuznetsky
Bridge. Subsequently phantom figures appeared. They, apparently, belonged to the
apocryphal story. Mamma emphasizing unclearly said that during the meeting on the
Kuznetsky Bridge, “there was also another person”. There was a lot more that wasn’t
clear, but regardless of where the view was from that window, I was born the next year.
         So, my father saw an acquaintance: Galya Chechurina, walking down from the
Lubyanka toward the Kuznetsky Bridge with a girlfriend. Having run out onto the street,
he caught up to her:
         “Where are you going?”
         “To the gymnastics parade.”
         In reality, the friends were walking up toward the Lubyanka from the Kuznetsky
Bridge, and papa couldn’t have seen them from his window. My atheist mother is still
convinced that this didn’t happen without mystics. Random endings are interlaced in
metaphysical measurements, so as to eject me into the world, like a frightened parachutist
from an aircraft.
         The friends Galya and Lyuba (the same one who took my father from my mother
and mama had only to bitterly remember his letters, signed “Vladimir”) were sent to the
Dinamo Stadium. My father, on the move, offered Galya (not Lyuba, together with whom
he was in diversionary school, where he broke his leg, after which they separated: she -
went to Algiers, to De Gaulle, he - to Sweden) to go to register. Galya was caught
unaware, and it enticed her to the nearest Civil Registry Office. There they were refused
registration, having referred to the idea that “they not live there”. After wandering around
Moscow without results (mamma already requested to go home and began to get
irritated) my parents, finding random witnesses, registered at a small registry office
(deaths and marriages were registered in the same room) on Miussky Square, where,
before the war, they studied together in courses for translators, being unequally interested
in one another. There was no wedding.

                                            
                                             
         So, my papa worked in the Kremlin. I don’t know fore sure what he did there, but,
when my friends and I (in the winter when our eyes were muffled in scarves, in beaver-
lamb coats, hats, felt boots and with the small blades in order to dig in the snow in Gorky
Park) went passed the Kremlin, I told them with knowledge of the matter:
         “My papa works here with Comrade Stalin.”
         Marusya Pushkina from an inherent rural feeling of fairness attempted to change
the order of the names. I was inexorable.
         Papa was invisible. He worked day and night: Stalin’s colleagues went home
when it was already light out. Sometimes in the morning I wanted to run into my parent’s
bed, if only to see how he slept, but they didn’t let me in. So, on Sundays and holidays,
papa materialized as a young, grey-eyed man with slanted bangs and happiness overfilled
me.
         I especially loved big revolutionary holidays. The songs rushed from the street
loudspeaker from the early morning. But I got up still earlier, before the music, from the
rumble of the tanks, which rushed together with the “katyushas” and other military
technology, the merry toys, smoking, along our central street in the direction of Red
Square. Four profiles of leaders, tenderly having nestled their cheeks toward one another,
like four fishes singing in an aquarium, hung on the house opposite us, between the long,
dark red banners. Papa took me with him to the parade. He wore a light- grey diplomatic
uniform with general’s stars, and I liked how the soldiers, extended like a string, saluted
him. However, the culmination of papa’s greatness took place, not on Red Square, where
I didn’t notice Stalin on the mausoleum.
         I don’t know how it happened, but one day, to my great joy, papa went with me to
the dacha on the usual suburban train, which had the red-wheeled locomotive with the
especially tasty smoke. We went out onto the house’s wooded platform on a summer
morning, and papa, in his general’s uniform sat down, not leaving the platform, on a
bench, so he could tie his laces, in a second leaned against the back and fell asleep. The
station’s militiaman came up to us and, not saying a word, stood near the bench. I thought
that we’d gotten into big trouble and quietly, so that he didn’t notice, began to cry. Papa’s
hat fell off his head; he woke up and looked questioningly at the militiaman.
         “What are you doing here?” - he asked reluctantly.
         “Guarding your sleep, Comrade General!” - the militiaman gallantly saluted. This
was, indisputably, the best militiaman in my life.
                                             
        My papa never got sick. In Molotov’s secretariat, to be sick was considered an
infraction of party discipline, and papa was a disciplined Communist.
        “A disciplined person,” - Molotov told his colleagues, - “Never catches a cold,
relates critically to his clothes and behavior. He will not sit by the window or run into the
cold weather without his coat.”
        This is why I was surprised, when I saw papa once with a bound hand. He easily
evaded answering. My childhood paradise was the superstructure of the adult world, in
which strange turns of events happened.
        “Somehow we finished work unusually early, around 1am,” - papa said. - “Happy,
I returned home and slipped in the tub. I didn’t have long to relax, however. My wife
(mama, when she was expectant with me, ate a lot of pea soup. I hate pea soup, even the
smell of it, since then) began to drum on the door and announced (the combination of
these two, very different verbs gives, like in the movies, the family atmosphere of that
time, but I won’t do it anymore), that they are immediately calling me to the Kremlin; the
car already left. With a wet head, I ran downstairs.
        Stalin’s own limousine on the “осевой” brought me in a flash to the Spassky
Gate. Having passed through security, I ran to the second floor of the government
building and rushed along the long, narrow corridor. At the turn, I fell on the parquet,
slippery as ice, having broken my hand. Having gotten up, I quickly wrapped it in my
handkerchief. Stalin’s top aide Poskrebyshev stood at the end of the corridor and cursed
me at the top of his lungs for my tardiness. Continuing to scream out curses, he literally
grabbed me by the collar and shoved me into Stalin’s office through the chain-stitch door.
        At the long table, facing one another, sat two delegations - speechless: ours -
members of the Politburo and - the foreign one. The “big boss” stood in the middle of the
office with his pipe in hand. Having shaken his head to my greeting, he pointed me
toward his place at the table. I put the pad for the record on my knees so as to hide my
wounded arm. Stalin paced back and forth behind my back with his unheard steps in soft
shoes. I as usual, took notes and translated.
        Suddenly Stalin was silent. He came up to me and, showing with the pipe on my
handkerchief, asked suspiciously:
        “What’s wrong with your arm?”
        “So, nothing, Joseph Vissarionovich, it hurts a little, its nothing,” - I muttered and
not very distinctly.
        “But regardless?” - he continued to insist.
        “Yes, I fell, nothing horrible.”
        “How did you fall? Where?”
        At that moment the door flew open and a doctor with his bag and two assistants,
all extremely worried, flew into the office. After them - Poskrebyshev. Talking to me,
Stalin imperceptibly pressed the button under the face of the table and called for medical
aide. Having decided that something wrong happened to him, they raised a panic.
Noticing the doctor’s puzzled glance, Stalin calmly said:
        “Look what’s wrong with his arm.”
        The doctor leaped toward me and with the help of his assistants, quickly washed
out and redressed my swollen hand.
         “You can go,” - Stalin instructed, and the medics left the office just as promptly
as they appeared. Those in attendance watched in silence. The conversation started again.
         The story of my hand continued. After Stalin’s reception, having held my father
by his shoulder, asked Molotov:
         “What’s wrong, Vyacheslav, don’t you watch over him? He is so lean and pale.
Don’t you feed him? You should feed him.”
         “I feed him,” - muttered Molotov, not understanding what Stalin meant. It
unpleasantly disturbed the Stalinist interest toward the young man as the forerunner of
the Kremlin change of generations.
         “Why didn’t you, Molotoshvili, reward your workers, in particular translators?” -
insisted Stalin, happily glancing at father like at an accomplice. “They never work with a
risk to their health! Give an offer - we’ll support it!”
         Soon my father received his first big medal, the Labor Red Banner at the Kremlin.
In his stories, Stalin, having torn himself away from his other image, moved along the
independent trajectories, full of touching love for Rene Clair’s film “Under the Roofs of
Paris” (my father also translated films for the leader), “modesty”, “geniality”, “hospitable
manners”.
         After the film ended, Stalin, having stood up from his c hair, turned toward my
father and with his finger beckoned him to come over. When my father came up, Stalin
took a bottle from the table in front of him, “Soviet” champagne, filled a glass and gave it
to him.
         “Thank you, Comrade Stalin. I don’t drink at work,” - said my father.
         Stalin laughed and continued to insist.
         “Come on, come on, drink,” - he said. “Molotov gives you permission, there’s a
lot of work to be done.
         Molotov and other members of the Politburo smiled. My father drank the glass of
champagne in one gulp with pleasure.

                                            
        The scene, when Stalin treats my father to champagne, tenderly smiling at the
handsome, young man, admiring him, makes me strangely affectionate. It even tickles my
nose. Why? Indeed, first of all, indeed, secondly, indeed thirdly, and fourthly, - the
righteous “indeed”. But it’s nice for me to know that at that moment in the half-dark
auditorium, father climbed the Everest of success, and I’m eternally happy for him, and
all to whom I tell this, despite their views, makes affection. The reason for this affection
is reckless. They talk about meetings with Hitler, Mao, Kim Ir Sen in memoirs with the
same exact enthusiasm.
        Boundless power intoxicates. To be noticed with the lord - familiarizing with the
chosen one, to the historical exclusivity. I don’t comprehend this, that these cowardly
vermin, members of the Politburo, who smile at my father, all these Voroshilovs,
Kaganoviches, Berias - becoming wolves, which in the clear field, in the snow, under the
light of the moon, are ready to tear my papa to shreds. I hear how they howl. When they
eat papa, he’ll become theirs, will turn into a young wolf. Ignoramuses and criminals for
whom the gallows cry. My father’s boss Molotov - was an ideological enraged cracker
with a pious expression. Stalin - was a political serial killer. What would I have done with
them? Killed them. I don’t have anything about which to talk. But I somehow regardless
am thrilled, to me it is sweet. This - is the illusion of orgasm.
        The truth of authority doesn’t belong to sympathy. It is - for the murderers. Big
politics begin with blood. The Russian authority - is rude, vomitous, consisting of male
anecdotes, curses, beefsteaks from raw meat, forgetfulness, muddy heads, long-term
intoxication, sadism, onion belching, impunity, humiliation of everyone in succession -
calls up fastidiousness, disgust in me. They drew me in with their cynical familiarity - I’d
have run to tell everyone the next day what shits they are. But if the authority’s goal was
set to buy me, I would have been in a difficult situation. I like to think how the Red Army
soldiers raped and killed young women. I lie down and imagine it. I - am a virtual
tormentor, in reality hating rape, not carrying out even friendly poking of any bastard.
But why am I, regardless, not indifferent, why does this subject bother me? Why am I, in
general, so sympathetic to vanity, why am I so agitated by pettiness. Writer’s glory - is
the shadow of authority. But sometimes I’d like so much to come out from the shadow.

                                            
        Stalin amazed my father by his love of mankind. A big busybody came to his
summer house, to check in the assistant’s room, in which the bed was made for him,
whether the pillow was soft, and with understanding was concerned with, it would seem,
absolutely unacceptable things.
        My father’s colleague, Ivan Ivanovich Lapshov, having drank too much at dinner
at Stalin’s Sochi residence and having gotten lost in the corridor, found the room
assigned to him with difficulty. He sat in the chair, opened a drawer and sobered up,
having seen a collection of pipes. The voice of the “big host” rang out behind his back:
        “What are you doing rummaging around in my table?”
        The poor apparatchik got only a terrible fright. During this, my father confirmed
that Stalin couldn’t stand any familiarity. As an example he relayed the story, having
heard it with Lebedev, Soviet Ambassador to Poland, who often arrived with Gomulka
and other Polish leaders to Moscow for talks, participated in the confidential talks in the
Kremlin. Lebedev allowed himself to send Stalin his book from Warsaw in 1951 about
the construction of bases of socialism in the countries of national democracy with the
inscription: “To Comrade J.V. Stalin”: in response to this inscription traced the
resolution: “withdraw”.

                                            
        But more than anything my father loved to reminisce about the Kremlin palace
lunches, full of people. He sat next to Stalin and translated the unhurried conversations
with the main guest. The leader, in his ceremonial, cream color generalissimo was in a
good mood, from time to time sips a glass of wine. The young, trim waiters scurry about,
precisely changing the silverware after each course, leaving all new dishes on the table
with big emblems of the Soviet Union. They served turkey. The waiter, who was serving
from a plate of cranberry sauce over Stalin’s shoulder, hand shook. Red drops poured
onto the generalissimo’s tunic. The table froze. Beria frowned and soon left the table.
Stalin didn’t even lift an eyebrow. The senior waiter ran over to him and feverishly wiped
the soiled spot with a moist rag. Stalin stopped him with a gentle gesture. The young
culprit of the incident left and no longer appeared. Reserved levity again reigned at the
table.
         “That was such self-control,” - said my father.
         “Was the waiter shot?” - I asked.
         “I don’t know,” - father shrugged his shoulders.
         We are bound by the similarity of smiles, noses, mouths, slightly opened by
absent- mindedness, impatient twitching of legs, sudden sluggishness, folding of hands on
the back of the head, intonations to such a degree, that together we compose the machine
of time. But, even if I partly control this situation, resisting the similarity of weaknesses,
nevertheless my father was sometimes taken for me - people are horrified, how I grew old
- there is this illness of sudden aging. Earlier everyone said how I look like my father.
Now they tell him, how he looks like his son. This is my small social victory which
doesn’t make me glad. I’m more scared of resembling him. The winds of old age are
blowing from that corner. I stoop. My father still has hair on his head, not balding, but all
the more terrible is memory loss, which he unsuccessfully masks by humor. In his speech
are more and more interjections, pauses, platitudes. How my father drives the car, I
already said: apocalyptic. I see my future in this, if I have one, especially in the morning,
the night before having drunk champagne with vodka. I would like, by the way, to know
where the time machine goes.
         I exasperated my father with questions for a long time: did Stalin believe in
Communism or was he simply a Soviet imperialist? Between the two poles of opinion
about Stalin as a sadist and maniacal murderer (the opinion of the Russian intelligentsia)
and as a devotee- inquisitor, my father even today leans toward the latter. The
intelligentsia - not an edict to him, as if a test to me. The intelligentsia, for example, hated
Andrei Alexandrovich Zhdanov, hated deafly, quietly, from all its heart, for the
destruction even visibility of freedoms, for the public executions of Akhmatova and
Zoshchenko, and in our family the main Stalinist ideologist was regarded as a savior. My
father got a farewell letter from my grandmother from the blockaded Leningrad: she and
grandfather didn’t get up anymore, they had no strength. He wrote to Zhdanov with a
request for help. A few days later a military man came to grandmother’s apartment with a
bag of food and even wine. Working in the Kremlin, father was able to thank Zhdanov
personally.
         “What for! - he modestly waved his hand.
         My father even now reminisces:
         “Zhdanov was active, rigid, with quick reactions. I was very afflicted when I
found out about his death.”
         More than that: Zhdanov, according to father’s words, was against the
sovietization of post-war Finland, took action for the neutral northern neighbor and had a
fatal heart attack after which he was criticized in the Politburo for his political liberalism.
The circumstances of Zhdanov’s death are as mysterious as everything connected to the
fairytale of Russian authority.
         We are sitting at the table and drinking tea in the house on the renamed street of
my childhood.
         “I consider,” - said my father - “that Stalin wasn’t a political murderer who got
pleasure from torture. I can’t link this with his façade.
        My father kept the custom of drinking liquid tea all his life. Grandmother never
stopped economizing on tea: I remember a microscopic aluminum spoon at home, used
only for tea leaves.
        “Wasn’t it you who told me about his “yellow, strong eyes?” - I asked.
        “He had a horrible stare,” - my father patiently agreed. “He knew that and usually
hid his eyes. In a holy matter he could kill everyone around. His repression was based in
faith. He managed to introduce communism in the consciousness of our people. He was a
smart man. He could make a contract with Hitler. Not one leader of the Soviet Union
would have taken such a proper course. We pushed Hitler into war with the West.

                                             
         Goodbye Chagall! I notice in myself an interesting feature - I’m being pulled
toward socialist realism, its style excites me. Just like, probably, that which draws a
pregnant woman to “something salty”. That is to say, this is my physiological need,
without any political underlying reason. The conception of my imagined exhibition
within the framework of the book consists of the comparison of socialist realism with its
ridiculer, social art which appeared in the last years of socialism as a harbinger of its end.
Social art consisted of both fear and humor, both bitterness and punishment. But the
dissident invention, that intended to destroy socialist realism, after a lapse of time proved
to be sufficiently small. With all the importance of such artists, like Ilya Kabakov or
Bulatov, found in social art a metaphysical vein, with all the witticism of Komara and
Melamida, working with an image of Stalin with false respect, it becomes clear that
socialist realism itself was the real national drama of the experience of utopia as a vital
possibility.
         Russia - is a captive of cheap paradoxes. Akhmatova wrote that poems grow from
arguments. The phrase stunned the intelligentsia by its revelation. But in my opinion, that
thin cat, which returned to the colleague of the Soviet Consulate in London after the
bombing, after they stopped waiting for it, - this is the metaphor for creativity, which чем
дальше, чем больше стесняется своего имени.
         What is amazing isn’t the conformity of Brodsky, Gerasimov, Yablonsky,
Laktionov, generating in me pity of the primary weakness of the artist, and the Russian
dream of the ideal affinity of the people and the state, which fell on Stalin with
Shakespearian political correctness. The Russian avant- garde also worked on Utopia, in
the presence of Malevich’s black square (find it) in this book is not deliberate. More so,
that Petrov-Vodsky with his red horse, the cubist posters of the twenties, glorifying the
Komsomol, the youthful angularity of my, not less, cubist parents, doubtful
филоновские nonsense and finally, our common (papa, mamma and I) familial stooped
posture, sending us into the pose of a space embryo, speaks about the direct coupling of
two utopias. It’s another matter that the avant- garde utopia attempted to eat into the
essence of things, to suck out the brain, while the naïve conciliarism of socialist realism
represents national mysticism which went down into the fabric not on command of
politicians, but was ordered by the Russian God himself. A few things bribe madness. In
the picture “At Lenin’s Grave”- painted by Brodsky without delay - the hall of funeral
hymns - the tropical wood full of high spreading palm trees. Lenin’s death turned into a
funeral ceremony of an African rural tsar - the Russian government - having known
more meaningful days, compressed by the two-dimensional members of the Politburo,
dolls of Krupskaya. Another time Stalin stands by Zhadov’s coffin. Again palms
emphasize the solemnity, the disciplined liability and immortality of Communist death.
Zhdanov, the toy of the make-up artist, so lifelike in the coffin - one couldn’t imagine
more living. So, I’ll find justification in father’s aged insensitivity At the recent
governmental burial of his friend, the ambassador, tennis player, he asked me:
         “The event, of course is sad, but are you curious?”
         Really. Father learned the classic language of diplomacy - French. But there
aren’t only diplomatic receptions, but diplomatic funerals also. Addressing the deceased,
lying in an open coffin in the Russian tradition, but lying with some natural glamour and
grandness which even death didn’t manage to modify, the Ambassador of the Far East
said in the presence of the Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs:
         “Dear Mr. Ambassador, your efforts on strengthening our state relations should be
called a feat.”
         I didn’t think that the deceased, even wearing many medals on his jacket (among
them were two Lenin medals), preserved the name of the ambassador. But when the
telegrams of the President of the Russian Federation and the General Secretary of the
United Nations were read, I understood that the cross, cassocks and prayers in this case
were unimportant. For a second, diplomacy won over death.
         Social realists approximated the Russian soul, an inexhaustible reserve of
enthusiasm, on which it is possible to fly forty times around the earth. In the picture of
the wounded Laktionov, young Soviet tank operators with such pride demonstrate to the
hero-captain of their wall newspaper that it seems: mockery. To shoot? Award? The artist
is incredibly talented. There in the windows of the Florentine landscapes. Not worse than
Дейнек, having moved into social realism from avant-garde. But, at last, the Russian
God took off his mask.
         After utopia in 1954, Plastov paints the picture “Spring”. A nude woman with
pink nipples and steep thighs, between which soars the smell of the vagina which has just
been washed in the bath with special Russian predilection, under spring snow squatting in
front of the child - this isn’t the Ehrenburg thaw for you. This - is the return home, in
family values, in private life, from which now through the window is seen, what it is to
fatally dream.

                                           
                                            
        Called from Stockholm to work as Molotov’s aide in 1944, my father became a
witness and conductor of military politics in the USSR. During his involvement, they
prepared projects of many letters from Stalin to Roosevelt and Churchill.
        “Stalin carried out the war in calculation of the promotion of revolutionary ideas
in Europe. In a conversation with Morris Torres, which I translated, he said there
wouldn’t be a Second Front, we would go still further and the French communists would
make necessary changes in our country.
        Still before Churchill’s appearance at Fulton, Stalin, according to my father’s
words, “counted on a third world war. He thought in world categories. As opposed to
Hitler, Stalin thought also about victory over the United States. He wanted everything. He
was subsequently set on world revolution, on the establishment of supremacy of the
entire world”.
         “I also allowed this perspective for the possibility of world revolution,” - my
father added.
         “That means we unleashed the “Cold War”? - I asked, catching myself on the
mimicking use of “we”, instead of the usual for me liberal- intelligentsia referral to the
Soviet authority as “they”.
         My father slowly nodded his head.
         “Did you like Stalin?”
         My father answered differently over the years to my q uestion. In the beginning
affirmatively, then it was more and more difficult. But he never answered negatively. He
saw in Stalin a “magnetic” person of world scale.
         “When I saw him the first time, I was taken aback. His earthen-dark complexion,
stale face was pockmarked. His left arm hung motionless. He lifted it with his other hand,
put it in his pocket. But, even sitting with my back to the door, I felt, when Stalin entered
my office. Stalin filled the space, squeezing everything else out of it.
         I reminded him of Khrushchev’s words that Stalin led the war of the world. By
the way, it was namely this world that undermined my mother’s belief in Khrushchev’s
secret speech - she found the words unduly vindictive. My father laughed. He took part in
Stalin’s talks with the three Western ambassadors in the heat of the Berlin crisis in the
beginning of August 1948. The world, as they wrote in the newspapers, was then o n the
verge of war.
         Stalin remained calm, smoked his favorite cigarettes - “Hertsegovina Flor”, not
being involved. The cigarettes often went out. Stalin never held a paper in front of him,
didn’t make any remarks. The conversation was about the right of the Union command to
have their troops in Berlin. The American Ambassador Bedell Smith, as general and
Eisenhower’s former Chief of Staff built the argument on military reasons. The Soviet
Union, he proved, creating difficulties for the Western Command in Berlin, breaks the
allied agreement:
         “The American Command didn’t object at that time against Soviet troops being
first to occupy Berlin.”
         “You couldn’t have gone in earlier than us in Berlin, you wouldn’t have
succeeded,” - staring straight in front of him, Stalin quietly objected.
         My father out of pride for the country even crossed his legs, but quickly changed
his mind, listening attentively to the soft voice. He saw how Stalin revisited the course of
the Berlin operation day by day in his mind. At that time, as part of the First Byelorussian
Front of Marshall Zhukov and the First Ukrainian Front of Marshall Konyev strengthened
their positions 60-80 kilometers from Berlin, General Patton’s American Army were
separated from the city to the West by 320-325 kilometers. Having broken through the
powerful defense of the opponent at Zeyelov Heights, the Red Army, on the fifth day of
operations had stormed Berlin; there were already street fighting they next day. The
American Ambassador’s ears burned.
         “Those were the facts,” - Stalin concluded. “If you don’t believe me, go to our
archives, I’ll show you general headquarter’s maps of that time.”
         “No,” - the American Ambassador answered confused. “I believe you Mr.
Generalissimo. Thank you.”
         The lean Bedell Smith was convinced. Stalin developed victory. Now he acted
like the subsequent defender of all of Germany.
         “We’ll remove posts around Berlin. This is a technical question. But you take
back the question of Germany’s division.”
         The ambassadors (my father noted to me with the smirk) politely, but with all
possible force protested.
         “The neutralization of Germany,” - I couldn’t hold back - “would mean a
complete catastrophe for the West!”
         My aggressiveness warned my father. I bit my tongue.
         “Well, that’s true,” - my father thoughtfully answered, as if examining the chess
party. - “But regardless, Stalin was mistaken.”
         “How?”
         Stalin moved de Gaulle, supported the idea of French sublimity. He knew that de
Gaulle couldn’t stand the Americans. It was necessary to move toward a tighter union
with France. De Gaulle wanted the Rhine Region. “If France didn’t get it, Adenauer
would become my cursed enemy” - De Gaulle told me at that time.
         The superstalinist critic of Stalin, counting on the fact that the apocalyptical,
mortally wounded beast of capitalism will crawl away to the British isles, it seemed to me
especially interesting, since my father, in the 1990s, in contrast to many other veterans of
Soviet diplomatic service, including the lordly deceased man with the many medals,
made, with respect to Russia, his anticommunist choice.
         “But regardless, de Gaulle highly regarded Stalin,” - my father added. “When, in
1956 the Ambassador Vinogradov and I visited him, the conversation turned to the
repressions. He said: a small man makes small mistakes, but a big one - big ones.”
         There arose a hallucination of my father’s torn vision. Father couldn’t look at the
events from within and from far away, new knowledge didn’t монтировались with
синхроном - by the way, he once honestly admitted this to me. But De Gaulle’s logic,
caused by Russian diplomats, under the pretext of consultations, according to his
memoirs, so as to understand Khrushchev's confidential report, seems disgusting to me
still now. Or you Nietzsche, or - the servant of people: Europe is created on this division
of roles.
         I needed Nietzsche. The more that my father doubted Stalin, the more I began to
be interested in Stalin. I didn’t want to play with his image, like the social artists did, but
at that moment in European culture, when the artist became more interesting than his
works, when he changed them for himself, Stalin appeared as the mighty forerunner of
this turn. Human material turned into the basis of his installation.
         “Why was Molotov called “Mr. No” in the West?” - I asked my father, having
turned away from my own thoughts, which I never could have discussed with him.
         “A part of a big game,” - my father smiled. “The distribution of roles. Molotov, as
the bad guy carried talks with the “Westerners” to failure. The role of Mr. No couldn’t fit
his character better. He was completely void of a sense of humor. But then the good guy,
Stalin, appeared and smiles began.
         Molotov, according to my father, was dry, tiresome, although also an educated
man. In any case, he was, apparently, the only member of the Politburo, who, after
Zhdanov’s death, could concretely say that Balzac never wrote a novel called “Madame
Bovary”. He loved long walks in nature, skated, drank mineral water with lemon and
adored buckwheat porridge. Once he puzzled my father:
         “What do you know about the use of buckwheat porridge? Find out and inform
me!”
         The idea of longevity, as it often happened with Communists, was for him the
replacement for eternity. In particular order, Molotov not only expressed interest in
buckwheat porridge. In 1947, financial reform took place in the Soviet Union. A year-
and-a-half later, Molotov asked my father one evening:
         “Do you have any money with you?”
         “Money?” - my father was amazed and began to pat his pockets in order to be
prepared to pull out his wallet.
         The Prime Minister began to look at the financial signs of his country with
interest.
         “Good money (money is good?),” - he approved.

                                            
         During the multi-year observation of my father, Stalin counted only on Molotov.
The rest were executors. Together they ran the Soviet Union. To them flowed upward, as
per their demand, all questions of the extremely centralized state, from the global - to the
cut of lady's blouses and Moscow restrooms, for absence of which Stalin chided
Khrushchev at the very height of the great terror. Stalin was responsible even for the
small needs of his people.
        The role of the institute of assistants having prepared their small reports,
combined 12-15 documents with notations: 1A (the most urgent), 1 (urgent), and “others”
- it was difficult to overestimate. The assistants had the “big boss” Stalin and the just the
“boss” Molotov, valued their initiative and even encouraged some freethinking (which I
loved in my father; he even allowed himself several times in one visit at the Soviet
summerhouse in suburban New York to beat the great Soviet inquisitor Vishinsky in
chess. He didn’t forgive my father, emphasizing his annual being left off the Ministry Of
Foreign Affairs list of those desiring to improve their housing situation. Finally my father
appealed to Molotov, who was angry when he was asked for personal help, using their
official position, - but he signed my father’s request - years later my father carried
Vishinsky’s coffin on his shoulders with pleasure through the French airport Le Bourget).
The authorities allowed disputes with itself until decisions were made. This was the case
also with the Marshall Plan, when Molotov, provoked by his apparatus, agreed in
principle to accept, but here Stalin sharply straightened out his colleague.
        In 1949, Molotov’s wife, Paulina Sergeyevna Zhemchuzhina, was arrested,
having been guilty of Zionism, - she proposed to return the Crimea to the Jews. Wasn’t it
too much? The apparatus was informed of the short conversation of the leaders.
        “We don’t imprison for nothing, Vyach,” - Stalin told Molotov, in personal
conversations, calling him almost by the American abbreviated name.
        Stalin loved to imprison the wives of close colleagues - Kalinina, Voroshilova,
also Poskribysheva. He waited each time with interest, with what dog eyes they will look
at him the next morning, how they will squirm, with which words to ask for them. Here
Zhemchuzhina drinks champagne at the Kremlin parties in her décolleté, smells of
perfumes, remembers that she was the last to see Nadia Alliluyeva alive, majestically
smiles at the nation’s actors, pats the handsome Cherkasov, who played the role of Ivan
the Terrible, on the shoulder, and here she is at the Lubyanka, naked, spreads her ass
cheeks apart and shows her anus to the prison doctor upon command. To Poskrebyshev’s
request, according to my father, Stalin answered joking:
        “We’ll find you a better wife.”
        Molotov endured his wife’s arrest, like the others did also, but since then returned
after conversations with Stalin in the angriest mood.
        Papa, especially at first, looked at his work in the Kremlin as a miracle of revived
portraits. Stalin, Molotov, Kalinin, Kaganovich, Voroshilov, Beria hung millions of
doubles all across the country, in photos and portraits having identical features. Molotov
was equal to Molotov: in his reserved, provincial smile was something cat- like,
imperceptibly fastidious, as if just recently a piece of shit passed through it. When this
portrait lost its portrait characteristics, left itself, breaking many- million canons, it
seemed, that the end of the world is beginning. Molotov turned into an enraged cat
(wasn’t it due to him that Bulgakov wrote The Hippopotamus?), having worn rimless
eye- glasses on his nose. Having returned from Stalin, the cat threw the folder on the
aide’s table and shouted:
        “Well what are you sitting around for, blockheads?! Understand!

                                            
         Remembering Molotov’s scolding, my father said, more than anything he got
them for Ilya Ehrenburg. At the end of the war the most popular Soviet writer of that
time, the bright degenerate of cubism and Paris, wrote, admittedly ignoring the class
approach, the article about the German workers and peasants with whom he spoke who
were grabbed by the Red Army in Keningsburg, always supported Hitler’s aggressive
plans, dreaming to obtain Russians for manual labor under their control. Ehrenburg (all
this by white threads) foggy demanded global revenge, subordinating the Soviet style of
articles to the offended national feeling. Molotov, besides everything else, having treated
the foreign policy journal “Questions of the International Workers Movement”, where
Ehrenburg brought an article, demanded it to be redone. He ordered my father to explain
it to the author:
         “The war is coming to an end; we must search Germany for healthy forces, some
support, but not blacken everything around.”
         What’s here not to understand? My father went to fulfill the “boss’s” order.
Arriving at the writer’s apartment, he felt himself to be a messenger of the highest forces.
Ehrenburg came out to the entrance. As usual in such cases, the writer’s “celebrity” was
shorter than he should have been. Besides that, his exhausted, yellow face with large bags
under his eyes, as if from constant alcoholism.
         “Come in.”
         They sat in the study.
         “Vyachislav Mikhailovich urgently asks you…”
         Ehrenburg understood everything by the first phrase. And he got bored, like any
author, who is told that something in the text needs to be corrected. Having listened to my
father coolly, he became even more yellow.
         “Everything that’s written - is true, and I don’t intend to change anything.”
         It was the first time in my father’s memory that Molotov’s automatic authority
didn’t work. My father didn’t believe his ears. He informed Molotov of the results. He
was enraged:
         “You yourself don’t understand well enough, you can’t motivate your co-
conversationalist toward obvious things!”
         My father was again ordered to go to Ehrenburg, and my father used all his
diligence to persuade him.
         “You don’t want to publish - don’t publish, that’s your choice,” - he categorically
told my father, it seemed, the fully “attentive” Ehrenburg.
         My father despondently meandered to the “boss”, understanding that he was
waiting for him. Translating the polemic with bureaucratic language on the
deconstruction of thought, it’s possible to notice that the traditional role of the writer and
the authorities here changed places.
         EHRENBURG: It’s necessary to destroy the Germans who burnt the Jews in the
gas chambers. They all supported Hitler - let’s wet all of them. The chambers are there -
what’s the problem?
         MOLOTOV: Stop your Jewish speeches! Where are you pushing me? I have a
Jewish wife!
         EHRENBURG: I demand vengeance. An eye for an eye.
         MOLOTOV: There’s enough vengeance in Keningsburg. The Red Army is
screwing everyone German around, despite their age. Calm down, your Kopelev will still
write about this.
         EHRENBURG: This isn’t an argument! The Fascists fucked all our women.
         MOLOTOV: All ours gave voluntarily, with laughter-юнчиками, including the
Komsomol girls. They thought, the bitches, that the Germans came forever.
         EHRENBURG: It’s interesting, how many after the war gave birth to mixed
children in Russian and German territories? Millions, for sure. But no one will study this
statistic.
         MOLOTOV: Don’t get distracted with nonsense. Redo the article. We don’t need
German’s ashes but live fighters for Socialism. The Germans love order. They will pass
from one system to another in ordered ranks.
         EHRENBURG: They glorify everything in the West.
         MOLOTOV: You glorify the West in your Paris.
         EHRENBURG: Don’t you trust me?
         MOLOTOV: How can one trust a Jewish mug?
         EHRENBURG: Are you talking about your wife?
         MOLOTOV: Listen, bastard, what does my wife have to do with anything! We
need reparations, German automobile factories! Finally, we should no longer quarrel for
so long with the Americans. They don’t support your idea of the gas chamber!
         EHRENBURG: And how about the “Cold War”?
         MOLOTOV: That’s for tomorrow. Here’s the task for you today. Rename
Keningsburg.
         EHRENBURG: Molotovburg!
         MOLOTOV: Shut up, misanthrope!
         EHRENBURG: I didn’t know that you are a bourgeois humanist!
         In reality, thus, according to the logic of dispute, it was. The courage of
Ehrenburg, having desired bloody vengeance, was justified by the approach of the
favorite authority’s position of hatred. It was even possible to resist the all- mighty prime
minister on this field. So, in the future of my father’s practice of politics of national
democracies of Eastern Europe, occurred frequently more radically, in their class hatred
than Soviet colleagues. This wasn’t welcomed, here it was possible to find Trotskyism if
desired, but this - was more reliable than the right-wing trend. Molotov could have used
Pushkin’s words in this case, that in Russia, the only European - is the government.
However, papa was confused, not so much by the essence of dispute, but by the
insubordination. It turned out that writers (without pursuit, even without party
membership) can arrogantly address representatives of the Supreme Power (my father),
breaking over his knee his self-appraisal, already growing stronger. No one stands for
such a reception. My father had something against Ehrenburg, and together him, also
against all other writers, all of his life. Is that why he already no longer read artistic
literature, sensing the smell of arrogance on every page of any author? So, a crack arose
between my father and the intelligentsia. He even “пробросил” me one day (his word
for bureaucrat), having, in his turn, struck Ehrenburg’ self-appraisal, that Ehrenburg
“speaks French poorly”. And when Ehrenburg passed away, and his parent’s friend
Galina Fyodorovna, having run to our house, announced, gasping, that Ehrenburg’s
summer house (with chestnut trees in the yard) was being sold, my father indifferently
refused this fall. In me, the Molotov- Ehrenburg dispute also caused a not too substantial,
but rebellious estimation. Father and son repeated the same phrase, born from father’s
confusion:
         “The writer dared contradict the second person in the government!”
         One - with irritation; the other with secret admiration. This episode became for
me the call for resistance.

                                            
                                             
        The arrest of Molotov’s wife was only Stalin’s first strike against Mr. “No”.
        “After the XIX Party Congress in October 1952, over Molotov’s jealous the axe”
- father said, “He sat at the vacated desk, looking only through the Soviet newspapers and
news from TASS. Other materials didn’t matter. They rarely called him to Stalin. We had
in the secretariat zealous executives of the Coucil of Ministers already removed
expensive chandeliers, curtains.
        For father supervision of state security was strengthened. One evening an
unfamiliar voice on the вертушка - phone with the governmental connection - began to
rudely chide him, that he hid behind the curtains when Comrade Stalin walked along the
corridor. A fantasy a la Hamlet. Curtains! Premature social art. Another time, vacationing
in the South, he received a telegram to return immediately to Moscow. In my father’s
office was a maid - a KGB agent - found a postcard with Stalin’s anniversary portrait,
done by Picasso. It was in a book like a bookmark. Beria regarded it as a caricature. An
investigation began.
        Stalin’s death in March 1953, apparently saved my father from the GULAG, and
me, from the orphanage for children of “enemies of the people”. Beria was arrested in the
beginning of the summer. After his arrest, a special dynamic was established in
Molotov’s office, in which the “theater from the microphone” was broadcast: as my
father heard himself, “the interrogation of this villain” was transmitted. Sobbing and
entreaty to spare his life were heard. Molotov, who was the first in the USSR to slightly
open the door of the GULAG, demanded of Beria, already a few hours after Stalin’s
death to return his arrested wife, sometimes listened to these cries, sometimes - not.
Beria’s cries gradually became regular, then disappeared: they shot him.
         My father’s work for Molotov finished two years previous. Again mysterious
angina saved him from the possibility of unpleasantness, tied to the future attack of
Molotov, (together with the antiparty group) in 1957.
         It’s possible, that we were all saved from the illness of constant nervous stress,
especially during the war. When life began to go normally, the illnesses returned. Having
found out about my angina, Molotov expressed his unhappiness that “this Erofeyev is
sick all the time”. He blew up at me: ten years of work, not feeling sorry for yourself, and
this is what you get! Having returned to work, I told Molotov directly that I no longer
want to work for him.

                                            
        The holidays ended. The boy convulsively seized the fire ladder. It was horrible to
climb higher, to come down - I was scared of the rocks. A third- grader stood below and
threw rocks at him. One rock hit him in the back, another - in the shoulder, the third,
finally got him in the back of the head. He screamed weakly and fell down backwards.
        The school’s director, like an experienced captain, led the school through new
troubles of co-education. Izya Moyseyevich, the literature teacher, shared his thoughts
concerning Ilya Ehrenburg’s recently published book with the teacher of the beginner’s
classes, Zoya Nikolayevna. She was young, embarrassed by everything. Once the director
came up to her face-to-face and pinched her stomach through her dress. The director had
a dark complexion, with a still young face. Zoya Nikolayevna didn’t know what to do
about this. He didn’t pinch her at all vulgarly, but rather jokingly. She smiled at him. He
clenched his fist and said: “You are right here in my hand”. She looked down. Then the
director said “Zoya Nikolayevna! I ask you, not as the director, but as a man: don’t wear
your long lilac pants. They don’t go with your face.” Zoya Nikolayevna flared up. She
wanted to fall through the ground from embarrassment. Not as the director, but as a man.
I ask you. She lay on the ottoman and read Ehrenburg, but she couldn’t read the book. In
her mind’s eye the director stood in front of her: with slanting bangs, thin. Zoya
Nikolayevna tried to understand her feelings. She took off her lilac pants once and for all.
She used them for cleaning house.
        The worker came in the morning. He came so early, as if he was dreamt up. With
a white rope in his hand. He crossed the room, opened the balcony door, letting in the
dampness and wind. On the balcony, after being fitted, grabbed the pentagonal, in human
height, star, covered by lamps, which looked like eyes. Not immediately having won,
having blood pour out, began to knit. The groundkeeper hoarsely shouted something to
him from the street. He returned to the room wet from the foul weather, sweaty,
weakened from battle and with an indistinct voice asked to drink.
        “And what do you like in the realm of films?” - Izya Moyseyevich came up to her
with this question. “I love the film “Alexander Nevsky”, having thought about it, Zoya
Nikolayevna answered sadly. Recently the director found fault with her. You don’t fill
out the journal that way, why don’t you participate in the wall- newspaper? Once during
lessons, she opened the door to the corridor. He stood there, listening. He looked her in
the face and, not having said anything, left. “He hates me and wants to get rid of me”, -
Zoya Nikolayevna thought, after collapsing into a lump on the ottoman, and sobbed. At
that moment, Zoya Nikolayevna’s younger brother, living together with her in one room,
heated the stove. A small hooligan, the thunderstorm of the gate. He heard how she
sobbed and turned around. Passing by her, he slapped his sister on her fat, meaty bottom
and said, заржав: She fell in love! Fool! - Zoya Nikolayevna screamed with the pitiful
scream of a wounded bird.
         The worker was given tap water. He got to look around: rich, television set with a
lens, not for general sale, on it was a musketeer with a sword and short pants, a picture of
a mimosa bouquet in a gilded frame, a knife and a lemon. Having put his head on his
little fist, a boy with black eyes, in pajamas, who overslept, attentively followed the
worker from the ottoman. Above the ottoman, in the hole from the nail, on which once
hung an old, dusty carpet, were thin rods with little red flags. Each holiday, imitating the
street, the boy hung up decorations: stars, banners, portraits of the leaders and chess
figures, covered with dirt. The horses had completely torn off muzzles.
         “He left marks, the devil!” - grandmother flew into a rage, wiping up the floor
after the worker left.
         Breaking his fingers, the boy fastened his uniform pants. Just before he left, a
scandal broke out. Grandmother ordered him to wear his new overshoes over his shoes.
Grandmother had poor nerves, of which she was proud. She experienced the blockade. In
the craziness, grandmother pushed the boy out the door, in the overshoes, not having said
goodbye. Swallowing his tears, the boy kicked the metal door of the elevator, calling the
elevator operator. While the operator went up, grandmother pushed the door open, again
happy and young. The boy wanted to stab her with the knife.
         “Petrovich,” - grandmother said to the old attendant in a rotting uniform of some
unknown army - “Take the soup. Don’t pour it out. Only return the pot. Try,” -
grandmother kindly said to the boy.
         The attendant smiled with his toothless mouth, bowed. Going down with the boy,
he lifted the lid and inhaled the cabbage swill for a long time with pleasure. In his youth,
Petrovich worked as a cook for the Yusupov Princes. He went to be trained in mastery in
Warsaw’s “Hunter’s Club” and later in Paris. People also lived at the entrance: clean
black cars came for them. Petrovich stood at attention and saluted. They sent “Victory”
chocolate for my father. The attendant’s eyes watered. The boy was accustomed to the
smell: Petrovich smelled, but a bit differently than the worker.
         Outside it wasn’t dawn yet. Snow and rain fell. It was possible to go one stop on
the packed trolleybus, but the boy never did this. The decorations were taken down on all
the streets. It seemed, forever. The boy was absolutely upset. Even the saved forty kopeks
didn’t make him happy. The cap with the letters SH on the visor fell in his eyes. It was
large, the hat, they didn’t get the right size. Grandmother sewed cotton inside it, but the
cotton fell out. The boy walked with a heavy briefcase through the rain and snow. He
turned from the street under an arch destroyed by a German bomb, went another minute
along the street, and saw the brick building of the school.
         The director’s window burned brightly. The director often spent the night in his
office, he didn’t want to go to his apartment on Marx- Engels Street. The artist Kachalov
lived in his apartment before the revolution. The director occupied the thirteen-meter
room, converted from the former bathroom. The pipes were exposed. The director wasn’t
happy with himself. He, a Soviet officer, at the front, day after day postpones the
decision. He shot Germans without thinking about it.
         The boy went to the locker room. There was a crowd. The boy hung his coat on
the hanger, they knocked off his hat; he rushed to pick it up. They began to chase it, like a
ball. They crowded into a corner. He bent over and got a foot in his butt. He turned
around. The third-grader kindly spit in his face. He didn’t say anything, turned around,
wiped it off, someone hit his leg on the heavy briefcase, the briefcase flew out of his
hand, opened, textbooks, notebooks and a case fell out. He began picking all these things
up. Someone's boot was printed оn one notebook and folded the pages like sticks. Zoya
Nikolayevna didn’t like messy people. She showed the slovenly notebooks to the whole
class, having taken them by the corners with two fingers, like a dead mouse by the tail.
Finally she finished reading Ehrenburg. Nothing special. The story was about some kind
of artists. They argued among themselves. It was boring. No one was in the locker room
when he gathered the notebooks. He stood in confusion, not knowing what to do. Where
to put his overshoes? Leave them under the hanger on the floor? But would they be
spared? The boy saw his blockade- grandmother’s yelling mouth. The bell rang. Zoya
Nikolayevna didn’t at all like students who were late. She put them in the corner, sent
them out to the principal with the nickname “Roach”. The boy’s cheeks burned. He
unfastened his briefcase, he wanted to go there, but there wasn’t room. Suddenly he had
an idea. He stuffed one overshoe into the right pant leg, the other - in the left, the left one
went in tighter: it blocked his handkerchief, he took it out, put it into the breast pocket of
his shirt, the overshoes went in, only the heels stuck out a little. He stretched the ends of
his shirt to the pockets, tightened his belt with the letter SH, recovered and ran out of the
locker room
         The director stood at the entrance on the stairs. The director himself. It was
impossible to pass by him. The director’s face was horrible. The director saw the boy and
walked toward him. The director was stirred up from the children. He, a front- line
soldier, order-bearer, has painfully experienced his assignment in school. He aimed
higher. Well-off little boys smelling of children's soap were especially offensive to him.
The director was distracted: The eternally late Izya Moiseyevich flew toward him like a
bullet. The director shielded the passage to the stairs. The director said: Hey you…throw
me your Ehrenburg here to pass out! The literature teacher flashed: But in fact everyone
read it!...
         “Everyone! Throw it to me: everyone!” - the literature teacher grew pale and
through the teeth said: Traitor!
         The director squeezed a ring of keys in his fist and said: “You are here in my
fist!” - and left, jingling the keys. The boy slipped between the annoyed men. He ran to
the second floor, ran half of the empty corridor, pulled the handle of the door and
blinked. The electricity in the class burned brightly and dryly. Zoya Nikolayevna stood at
the desk and spoke loudly, distinctly. She finished the proposal and looked at the boy. He
stood by the door: bare hair-cut, black eyes, ears buring. Tousled. His briefcase was dirty.
She looked at him. “What do you have in your pockets?” - the teacher asked him,
surprised. All forty pairs of the children’s eyes fixed on the boy. The boy kept quiet. He
felt the water flow from the wet overshoes, filter through the fabric of his pocket, through
his brown socks, making his feet unpleasantly cold. “I’m asking, what do you have in
your pockets?” - each of the teacher’s words rapped out. “Nothing…” - the boy babbled.
“Come here.” He went over, crooked from shyness. Zoya Nikolayevna lifted the corner
of his shirt, grabbed and pulled out the black overshoe with the drenched insides. She
took the overshoe with two fingers, lifted it up, showed the class and pronounced only
one word:
         “An overshoe.”
         The class rumbled, began to squeal and bark. The children - many of them
rachitic, with sickly faces - collapsed on their desks, grabbed their stomachs. Those who
laughed were Adrianov, Baranov, Bekkenin, who later proved to be Tatar, and the
weakly-expressed wunderkind Berman. Dorofeyev and Zhulyev laughed, having
embraced as Herzen and Ogaryov did, the stout Vasilieva with protruding eyes, suffering
from Basedow's disease, laughed prematurely with hearty laughter, the magnificent Kira
Kaplina let out bubbles, was the first in her class to have her menstrual cycle, Naryshkin,
the small monkey squealed a bit (Five years later Izya would ask (Are you of those
Naryskins? Why are you silent? It’s no longer terrible. And she simply doesn’t
understand: from which those? She is Naryshkina from Yuzhinsky Lane). Goryainova
laughed: she left for a two- year business trip to Cuba with her husband, the restless
Artsybashev, he subsequently became a rather well-known writer, joined the Union of
Writers, Trunina, having finished school with a gold medal, Zolotaryova and the doctor
of санэпидемстанции Gusev, and also Gadova, having gone gray in thirty years, she
learned to play the guitar. Sokina with the skinny legs, who would die early from blood
poisoning laughed, the curly- haired Nyushkina, who already died, having fallen into the
empty elevator shaft, then it overcame the red-headed foolish Trunina - her husband - a
member of the Central Committee, true, it seems, the All- Union Lenin Young
Communist League, it also overcame Nelly Petrosyan, who married a Hungarian, she
would speak Hungarian the rest of her life - egish- megish - and incomprehensible
language! The frail Bogdanov laughs, he in two years would get a strong kick by Ilya
Tretyakov’s foot - he laughs at a back school desk! - breaks his coccyx, Los the sweet
tooth laughs, she’s an informer, Yakimenko, in a drunken state will throw himself out of
the window, will become an invalid, have twins, Yudin would live longer than everyone:
on her 90th birthday, comes out into the communal kitchen in her motley bathing suit.
Shaken neighbors will break out in applause. Only Hohlov isn’t laughing, because he
never laughs. The mathematician Sukach, who moved to live in Vorkuta laughs, the
murderer Kolya Maksimov, he’ll slaughter the owner Golubyatin, shook from laughter,
the trafficker Verchenko, having gone since he was young to beg foreigners for chewing
gum at the Hotel Peking, and Sasha Heraskov. They echoed Zaitsev, Shoob who wore
glasses, and the Romanian from the anti- fascist family, Stella Dickens. The ensign
Shchapov, contused in the colonial campaign, каратист Chemodanov and Wagner, the
flat-chested Wagner, crowed as loud as they could. Baklazhanova, Muhanov, and
Klyshko fell from laughter, just like some kind of fruit, in the entryway. With a laughing
face, Alexei Maresev’s son, who was accepted into the Pioneers still before school-age,
walked on his hands.
        And Zoya Nikolayevna also started laughing. Infected by the children, Zoya
Nikolayevna couldn’t hold back and flooded with thin silvery laughter. Ha- ha-ha-ha-ha,-
filled Zoya Nikolayevna, not having the strength to control herself, - ha- ha-ha- ha-ha.
        The originator of triumph, the general laughing-stock, stood near her table with
dirty pants with inside-out pockets. From his eyes, black as coal, bitter tears ran along his
long face, and suddenly, through her unprofessional laughter, through the children’s
laughter, Zoya Nikolayevna heard how the boy whispered desperately and selflessly:
        “Lord,” - whispered the boy - “forgive them, Lord, forgive them and show mercy!
They’re not guilty, kind, they’re good, Lord!”
        Zoya Nikolayevna stopped laughing, and, continuing to hold the overshoe in her
hand, looked at the boy with big eyes. And here she noticed, that over the head of this
slovenly first-grader, over his crew-cut head shone a thin halo, like a coating of ice.
        “I like them, Lord!” - whispered the boy. “Saint!” - the teacher said stunned, and
her face became horribly stupid.
        “What’s happening here?!” - the director all of a sudden appeared at the doors. -
“It’s an insane asylum! Stop it!”
        Everyone froze. Zoya Nikolayevna stood with the child’s overshoes in her hand
and looked at the director with a thoughtless glance.
        “You’re tearing me away from studies in the school!” - the director hissed at her,
shaking his slanting bangs. “Come out into the corridor!”
        Not understanding anything, as if in a dream, Zoya Nikolayevna went out into the
corridor, with the overshoes. The director closed the classroom door - now the deserted
children began to shout there again.
        “This is still about the galoshes?” - the director asked with a brutal face.
        “One boy,” - Zoya Nikolayevna uttered indistinctly - “he, do you understand,” -
her eyes widened, - “is a saint…”
        The director took the small overshoes from Zoya Nikolayevna’s hand, put them in
his wide palm, thoughtfully looked at their drenched innards.
        “Zoya Nikolayevna!” - he said, chasing the sharp stench of the male mouth into
her face. “More of this, really, isn’t allowed. I have a thirteen- meter room. In the very
center. Come live with me. Be my wife.”
        Zoya Nikolayevna screamed weakly and flew backwards down the fire escape.

                                            
        There were big changes. We left to live in Paris. My father agreed to go as first
secretary, but Molotov flared up again, having seen in this an unjustified downgrade in
post, and ordered my father to be sent as an advisor. Just as Stalin was put into the
mausoleum, having been placed facing Lenin, papa took me with him by special
invitation: they didn’t yet allow people to go there. I went, like on an entertaining
excursion, not suspecting anything at all, a hopping gait, but, having gone down into the
marble basement; fell to the very depth of my childhood fears. Stalin and Lenin became
the first corpses in my life. But if Lenin was quiet, then Stalin simply completely
splashed of death. He lay on a new, beautiful and horrible, a nd then for a long time
dreamed alternately of a skull and bones on the summer-resort column. I experienced
such strong shivers; that already later in Paris with tears avoided visiting the coffin of
Napoleon at Les Invalides, being afraid that he was also put into an open coffin there.
        “How did you concretely imagine communism?”
        My father was silent.
        “We believed that it was the best form of organization in human life. More fair.
Based on the principles recognized by all people and even religions.
        Papa didn’t have diplomatic relations with God. He never went to church, even if
it was a monument of culture. I see him standing by the church porches in Peredelkino, in
the cold, in the rays of the cupolas, with a runny nose, in a coat with an Astrakhan collar
and an Astrakhan hat. He’s talking to a friend, the cheerful Guberman (surprised
everyone by his suicide: hung himself on a door). By the way, my father never was an
anti-Semite, not once in his life did he allow himself to say that which Russians, as a rule,
have in their hearts about Jews. Mama went to church out of curiosity with her friend
Elena Nikolayevna - Lelikom (also already passed away, in Paris in the 1970s, she lost
her mind from Western abundance and then took a long time to recover), - mama could,
but my father himself didn’t go - enemy territory. We considered it unpleasant and
embarrassing to talk about God in our family. God - prejudices, stupidity. God was
written in small letters in the lives of my parents.
        “You can still, perhaps, tell me that you believe in God!” - I furiously fought with
my verbal dissident mother, granddaughter of a priest, who specifically hid in the village,
so as not to bring the family. During the years of perestroika, having grown old, her
atheism weakened, but became convinced of the fact that God and I were incompatible.
         “What are these principles?” - my father continued the conversation about
Communism. “Concern about man. Man comes first. Brotherhood. Friendship. Free
medical treatment. Free education. Man bears responsibility befo re the collective for his
behavior, for his work. We were brought up “in the fist”. If someone went toward
lewdness, he knew, that he’d have to answer for this at the Communist Party meeting.
        The majority of people in my father’s circle were e xtremely timid people, they
didn’t think about lewdness. Molotov’s senior aide, Boris Fyodorovich Podtserbov, in his
youth, having invited a girl to a meeting, unnoticeably wrote on his pants, embarrassed to
admit that he wanted to go to the bathroom. There were, of co urse, exceptions. A close
friend of my father’s, the fidgety and smart Andrei Mikhailovich Alexandrov, who knew
“Faust” in German by heart, and whom later, (he became Brezhnev’s influential aide), the
Americans called the Russian Kissinger, coming to us as a guest, not only invariably
cited Goethe, but pinched our maid, driving my mother crazy. Once I discovered the
Russian Kissinger in a closed wardrobe cabinet in my childhood room, passionately
being kissed by his own wife. They affably waved at me. With still greater passion they
dragged me with my young wife to their bedroom in their prestigious house opposite the
Telegraph - to look at a good copy of Rembrandt’s Danae. The matter began to smell of
group sex. Eventually they showed only their nude photographs, having scattered them
on their antique table.
        For my father, the words modesty and discipline were always effective.
        “Our failure has global meaning for humanity,” - my father said. “World
catastrophe of the philosophical plan. Hope is lost.
        However, another time, during our stroll along the suburban Moscow Istra River,
he was disposed, as was characteristic of him, to being more optimistic:
        “The Communist ideas themselves weren’t bad. Experience showed, that due to
the conditions in Russia, we weren’t ready for it. Just like today we still aren’t ready for
democracy. But experience wasn’t wasted. At some point, humanity can return to a
higher moral level in new forms toward this (Communist) matter.
        Once, during the Stalinist era, they shortchanged my grandmother at GUM. She
said, surprised:
        “Why aren’t you scared to shortchange me, when my son works in the Kremlin?”
        The cashier was ready to hand over all the proceeds to her.

                                            
         Stalin can be called like the Russian toy: Stalin-встанька. Stalin- the creator of a
magical totalitarianism. Russians love riddles. Stalin was completely airtight, battened
down like a submarine. This - is our yellow submarine. He never said what he really
wants. He laughed at everyone and died unrecognized.
         The eternal liberal books about Stalin describe his tyranny. However, only the
West could help the Russian Revolution get started, gain strength, conquer the Civil War,
crush the Russian emigration, unite Stalin with Hitler and later return almost all Russian
fugitives. We exist in free space, suspended from moral criticism of the West. We must
comprehend ourselves in our own categories. We flew in such worlds in which no one
has yet been. This - is human measurement. This - is the identity of polar things. Our
return to the system or normal values is practically not realistic. We only imitate common
sense.
         I grew up and understood something: for the West and the majority of the Russian
intelligentsia Stalin was one person, but for many millions of Russian - he was someone
else. They don’t believe in the bad Stalin. They don’t believe that Stalin tore to pieces
and tortured someone. The people made the image of the good Stalin, Russian savior and
father of the great nation. My father went together with my people. Don’t offe nd Stalin!
         I don’t have another taiga Napoleon, other Communists and other grandmothers
and won’t be any time soon.
         I take various figures with oval state labels out of the family boxes. The label -
universal account and control. Solipsism - is the absence of a child’s trauma. From a
naked case I returned to the uniform measures of things. Here’s Stalin, behind him is
Molotov, Beria, Mikoyan, other members of the Politburo, and also the proclaimed
foreigners: De Gaulle, Ribbentrop and Morris Torrez smiled at me, Enver Hoxha, the
dance teacher danced for me.
         In correspondence with their doctrines or in spite of them they exist exclusively
for my pleasure. In the depths of the order of things, they - my creation, and therefore
deeply false. (Like that Indian near the airport in Varanasi with а moustache wider than
his speckled face and by the antediluvian carbine in his thin hands, which made a
threatening gesture, when I mistakenly went into the forbidden zone some of oily срани,
surrounded by the bamboo fence. I looked at him and couldn’t believe that he was
capable of causing me any real harm.
         All this ended incorrectly. I guessed about the solipsisimal rituals. I bowed to the
solipsisimal idols. I decided not to win against my father at his favorite game, especially
tennis, - it didn’t help. Fragility of life is given to us clearly in my family example. The
shell broke. The Indian, coming out of the brackets, shot - what a whore! - in hot air.
The labels were scattered. Even grandmother revolted against the roles allocated by me
for her. Having appeared to be longer- lasting than the USSR, Anastasia Nikandrovna
admitted to me before her death that she always considered Lenin a “bad person”.
        “Why didn’t you tell me about this earlier?” - I asked.
        “I didn’t want to ruin your life,” - having resorted to a theatrical intonation,
grandmother answered in a hoarse voice.
        She didn’t know that I ruined my own life and without her help. We hid the
family catastrophe from her, like an unpleasant illness. She didn’t know that in 1979,
with “Gone with the Wind” in samizdat, I unwillingly politically killed my father
(Freudians here will probably be revived).
        However, good news: conscience exists. It’s necessary to live for a long time in
Russia, in order to live for something. But conscience sleeps a deep sleep. Negretos
Gipnos - its god-commander. She’s dreaming something. Continuation follows. And
what is Russia, if not dreams of conscience?

				
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